Here’s something that may really surprise you; approximately 50 million plus people in the US and one in five Australians suffer from osteoarthritis which is a painful inflammatory disease of the joints, causing significant discomfort, localized swelling, and sometimes loss of function of the affected joints.
Osteoarthritis is the most common forms of arthritis…..especially as we start to get a few miles up on the old speedo of life.
Discover now the answers to the most commonly asked questions I hear people posing on a daily basis about osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease as it is often called is distinguished by several factors, such as inflammation of the joint tissues, bony growths around joints, and damage to joint cartilage. Many joints can be affected by osteoarthritis. Some of the most common are the hips, knees, wrists and fingers.
Here are the answers to the most common questions I hear people asking about osteoarthritis.
How Does Osteoarthritis Form?
The surfaces of your joints are lined with cartilage, which acts as a type of shock absorber, preventing your bones from rubbing against each other. A substance called synovial fluid forms between the joint surfaces as well, to lubricate them, and prevent harm from the bending movement.
As osteoarthritis begins to develop, the synovial fluid’s sponginess decreases, and friction begins to occur within the joint. As friction increases, the cartilage “cushion” starts to become worn out, even ragged, as the bones begin to rub against each other. As this friction increases, the bones become thin, and cracked. When the joints are under this much pressure, they often form bony bumps that act as a type of “callous,” in order to reduce pressure.
The result of this whole process is pain, mild at first, and often becoming severe enough to disable the person.
What Are the Symptoms of Osteoarthritis?
Symptoms of osteoarthritis vary greatly among sufferers, and among the joints affected.
The most common symptoms include:
* Joint pain, either during, or after, movement.
* Stiffness. This may be most noticeable during long periods of inactivity, or upon waking. So try stretching as soon as you get up in the morning.
* Grating sensation while using a joint.
* Tenderness when putting light pressure on or near the joint.
* Joint stiffness, and loss of full motion.
* Bone spurs.
What are the Main Risk Factors for Getting Osteoarthritis?
The biggest and most common risk factor is obesity – our number one health issue in the western world today.
Obesity can actually pose double the risk of family history of the disease. It is important to keep your weight at, or very close to, normal levels to reduce this risk, and also to lessen the symptoms of already existing osteoarthritis.
Another risk factor is genetics, or a family history. If one or both of your parents had osteoarthritis, your chances are much higher. Your chances of developing osteoarthritis are also greater if you are over 50 years of age. That is, as you get older, your risk increases. Just another one of the joys of ageing.
Another risk factor is joint deformity, where the joints, or cartilage, developed abnormally.
Your occupation may also be a risk factor if you have a job where you continuously over-use certain joints; this is especially so for professional sports people and many trades people such as builders and bricklayers. Joint braces, or other protective and supportive equipment can often help in this situation.
Is There a Cure for Osteoarthritis?
Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for osteoarthritis, however, prevention by reducing risk factors is quite helpful. Losing weight can drastically reduce the risk of developing the disease.
Exercising to strengthen muscles that support the joints and physical therapy are also very useful methods of treatment.
Before starting an exercise program it is important that you do consult with your family doctor in conjunction with a personal fitness trainer like Steam Train Fitness to assess the level and types of exercises best suited to your degree of incapacity. Avoiding heavy over-use of joints is also important in order to keep osteoarthritis at bay.
Treating symptoms provides some relief for sufferers. This can be in the form of NSAID’s, such as ibuprofen and naproxen. There are also many different supplements such as Glucosamine and its derivatives available in health food shops and supermarkets that supposedly help to reduce friction between joints.
Personally, I have had poor results with tablets containing Glucosamine, MSM and Chondroitin. If you are keen to try these methods of pain relief then you need to trial them for at least three months to see if they are of any assistance to your specific problems. Some people I know claim to have had good results but they didn’t do it for me unfortunately.
There are also a multitude of other sprays, topical creams and magic potions on the market which seem to have widely varying results. I have found everyone you talk to has their own preferred solution so you just have to keep trying different products until you hit on something that gives you some worthwhile relief.
Work out by trial and error which one product suits you the best and don’t get too wrapped up by some of the wild claims in the marketing blurbs because a lot of them just won’t work for you.
In the end exercise has done more for me than anything else so get yourself a proper exercise program going and within two or three months you will be feeling so much better.
A cane, or walking stick, can be useful for lightening the load on a lower-limb joint and avoiding heavy over-use of joints is also important to help keep the pain of osteoarthritis at bay.
Surgery is an option when all other treatments have failed, especially on the hips and knees.
These operations usually offer very positive results, and recovery time is relatively short. Your surgeon will give you an exercise program to follow after leaving hospital; I can tell you from personal experience it is critical you do this to the letter so as to get maximum benefit from your operation. It is well worth the trouble in the long run.
Some data I came across recently from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare confirms this is a growing trend telling us there has been a “47% rise in the rate of total knee replacements for osteoarthritis and a 17% rise in hip replacement from 2003–04 to 2012–13.”
Osteoarthritis is certainly a very painful disease and can even be potentially crippling, but it isn’t a life sentence.
With proper joint care, a professionally designed exercise program, symptom relief and reduction of all the most common risk factors (like diet), you can go on and actively enjoy your life with a significantly reduced amount of pain and much less interruption to your daily activities.
So remember: “Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” – Jim Rohn