Osteoarthritis is caused when the cartilage tissue connecting our joints begins to degenerate. The condition may affect any joint in the body, although it is most commonly experienced in those which regularly carry weight. Hips, knees, shoulders, and elbows are best known, and the condition will typically cause stiffness, pain and general discomfort that will probably worsen over time. Sometimes this is accompanied by swelling/inflammation, cracking sounds, and acute tenderness.
People of all ages can experience osteoarthritis but those in their middle and later years are more likely to develop the condition due to simple wear and tear. Symptoms vary between people and severity can range from mild discomfort to severe incapacitation.
What Causes Osteoarthritis?
Despite this being the most common form of arthritis surprisingly little is still known for exactly what causes osteoarthritis in some people while others remain fortunately unaffected. A common misconception is that the condition is more likely to arise among people who have routinely put themselves under considerable physical strain for many years (manual labor, intensive workouts, etc), but it can be just as common among sedentary people. One positive to take from the high number of cases diagnosed each year is that we can identify some statistical trends that suggest people may be more or less likely to develop osteoarthritis:
Family history – there is evidence of a pattern here but it is not universal and no single gene has yet been identified for causing the condition to emerge.
Inadequate recovery – osteoarthritis is more likely to develop when joint injuries have not been allowed long enough to adequately heal.
Age – people are increasingly likely to experience symptoms as they grow older.
Obesity – unnecessary weight places far greater strain on hips, knees and back joints.
Bone deformity – people born with unusually formed bones are statistically more prone to this condition.
Secondary conditions – it can develop from other conditions which have damaged the joints such as gout and rheumatoid arthritis.
Some medical doctors are likely to assume some kind of arthritic issue with anybody experiencing joint pains from their 40’s onwards. This is especially true when the person matches any of the profiles listed above and reports that the pain has been growing worse despite simple exercises being performed.
One of the key reasons why people approach a medical doctor or physical therapist is because they are experiencing very stiff joints in the morning that are taking a much longer while to loosen up. In this case, the doctor will then begin the process of ruling out other potential explanations and look to distinguish whether it is either osteoarthritis or rheumatoid. The latter form tends to exhibit far more general stiffness and can be confirmed using blood tests and X-rays.
Another common red-flag for osteoarthritis tends to be unusual growths and enlargements in the fingers. These can be very small and may or may not be painful.
Treatments For Osteoarthritis
There are many potential ways to treat this condition and patients are generally advised to adopt multiple approaches towards managing the pain, lessening the speed of spread, and coping with potential mobility problems. While it can be daunting once you have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, it is essential to keep a positive mindset and consider the fact that millions of people continue to live quite comfortably with the condition. Treatment schedules tend to increase in scale according to the severity of the problem.
If the osteoarthritis is noticed early and is only causing mild discomfort then it can be surprisingly simple to manage. The focus ought to be on preventing the condition growing worse by eating a healthy diet (and probably losing weight), performing high quality and regular exercise – often incorporating aspects of physiotherapy directed towards the afflicted joint(s), and looking at how assistance equipment may be beneficial. Something as simple as wearing supportive soles can help people experiencing osteoarthritis in their knees and hips. There are also a wide variety of supportive garments – much like those used by athletes – which can be extremely useful across the body.
Should the osteoarthritis already be at a more advanced stage, most people are going to turn towards pain killing medication, we advise to see a medical professional before you take medicine. Painkilling drugs are not necessary because it’s better to participate in some physiotherapy treatments. Expect these to be highly structured and geared precisely to your individual requirements, and understand that many of these will be demonstrated for you to perform yourself at home.
At any stage of your treatment, it is sensible to look into how hot/cold packs can help keep your muscles flexible and reduce pain. A medical professional will demonstrate simple stretching techniques and provide guidance on how to learn and maintain a better posture. Both will help to lessen the severity and duration of the pain.
You Can Live Fully With Osteoarthritis
The key to being able to live well with this condition is to follow the instructions issued by your doctor. Each case of osteoarthritis is likely to have its own peculiarities and your doctor and support team will explain this in detail. Plenty of people find that some days are far better than others and that proper stretching and exercise helps. Taking too much medicine can be counterproductive and should be avoided; not only will medication be bad for your overall health but even make the pain worse in some cases.
It is never too late to make changes to your lifestyle that will not just improve general wellbeing but help make specific treatments more effective. Losing weight and being active (while exercising affected joints) is highly recommended for the vast majority of people. Physiotherapy, aromatherapy, acupuncture, meditation, CBT, yoga and a host of other supportive/complementary treatments are going to help alleviate and manage the pain. Do not rule out the possibility of joining one of the many hundreds of osteoarthritis support networks throughout the country for additional advice specific to your location.
While the precise causes of osteoarthritis may still not be exactly understood the fact remains that it is a very common ailment. Unfortunately, if left without adequate attention and care it can be one of those conditions that swiftly becomes quite unpleasant. Thousands of people every year find themselves unable to work or even care for themselves simply because they ignored their symptoms for too long. Just taking medical advice and making a few positive lifestyle changes can considerably lessen the impact that osteoarthritis may have over disrupting your life.
Anyone who has been diagnosed with this condition should look for suitable ways that additional physical therapies can complement the standard medical treatments. Not only will they often offer immediate relief from painful episodes but they can considerably help reduce the frequency and severity of pain and inflammation.