What Is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It causes pain, swelling and reduced motion in your joints. It can occur in any joint, but usually it affects the spine and joints in the lower limb, for example: hip and knee, as these are the main weight bearing joints.
Osteoarthritis affects the articular cartilage and it can start to wear off. Pieces of cartilage may become loose and float inside the joint, causing further irritation. Over a long period of time the cartilage can become completely worn out and the bones begin to rub together, causing extreme pain.
What Are The Risk Factors?
The exact cause for osteoarthritis is not known but some risk factors include previous knee injury such as meniscal cartilage tear or ligament injury, family history of osteoarthritis, being overweight, increasing age, or alignment issues such as bow legs or knocked knees.
What Are The Symptoms Of Osteoarthritis?
Patients usually complain of some of the following symptoms:
- Stiffness – especially in the morning and after prolonged rest
- Limited range of movement of affected joint
- Reduced function – difficulty with everyday activities. For example: reduced walking distance
- Swelling – especially after activity
What Is The Treatment For Osteoarthritis?
It is not possible to reverse the changes that have occurred. Treatment aims to reduce the symptoms and help you to adapt your lifestyle with the condition and control the condition from getting worse. Surgery is recommended for good relief from pain and the type of surgery depends on the stage of disease.
There are alternatives to postpone your surgery for a while. These include:
- Pain medication, painkillers, anti-inflammatories and topical gels or cream
- Using walking aids to reduce stress on the joint
- Weight loss – being overweight places more stress on your joints and other forms of treatment may not have any lasting benefit until sufficient weight is lost
- Shoe inserts that help to cushion the joints or shoes that have thick soft soles that act as a shock absorber to feet, knees, hip and back
- Exercises can help maintain joint movement, muscle strength and relive pain
- Modification of activities to reduce pain – using chair arms to get up from chair and using banister on stairs to reduce load on knees
- Nutritional suppliments
- Heat – this may be effective in relieving pain from the joint, but should not be applied if the joint is warm or grossly swollen.