What is Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis causes the cartilage on the end of your bones to get rougher and thinner. The bone underneath thickens and grows outwards, creating growths called osteophytes that can make your joint look knobbly. The capsule around the joint also thickens and tightens. Sometimes fluid builds up and your joint can look and feel swollen. It is often the weight bearing joints such as the hip and knee that develop osteoarthritis .
These changes to your joints can cause pain and stiffness and make it more difficult for you to get around, or do everyday tasks. Osteoarthritis can affect people in different ways. It may get worse over a short period of time and cause a lot of damage to your joints. This can have a significant impact on your day-to-day life. Or, you may find that your condition develops slowly over many years, causing small changes to your joints that don’t get any worse. They may even ease over time.
SYMPTOMS OF OSTEOARTHRITIS
Initially you may notice some pain and stiffness in your hip or knee joint. As your arthritis develops you will notice a deep aching in your joint and this this may extend some distance away from your joint. For example with hip OA you may get pain in the groin or radiating down to your knee. You will start losing joint movement and so if you have knee or hip OA tasks such as putting on your shoes will become more difficult.
Your joint become noisy when you walk due to the uneven bony surfaces of your joint crunching or grinding against each other
Your joint may change shape due to the bony outgrowths and swelling in the joint.
Your joint may give way when you put weight through it because the joint has become unstable or the muscles are no longer strong enough to support your weight.
Your balance will become impaired.
The pain in your joint may flare up from time to time because you have over used it or just because the weather changes to become more humid or colder.
WHAT CAUSES OSTEOARTHRITIS
Currently the exact causes of arthritis aren’t fully understood but the following factors will make you more likely to develop arthritis
• A family history of arthritis
• If you are over 50 years old
• Being overweight putting more stress through the weight bearing joints
• A previous injury to the joint
• A history of another type of arthritis in that joint e. rheumatioid arthritis
HOW IS OSTEOARTHRITIS DIAGNOSED
Osteoarthritis can be diagnosed by the clinician examining your joint and asking you about your joint. An Xray can also be used to diagnose arthritis as it will show
• Loss of the normal space between the bone of the joint
• Roughing or thickening of the cartilage over the bony ends
• Thickening of the bone at the edge of the joint
• Extra bony growth at the edges of the joint
TREATMENT FOR OSTEOARTHRITIS
Often the first treatment for joint pain due to osteo arthritis is medication prescribed by your doctor. As well as this there are a lot of self help strategies for relieving the pain and stiffness from this condition.
• Reducing the load on the joint by losing weight,wearing appropriate foot wear, using a walking aid if recommended by your therapist.
• Strengthening the surrounding muscles to support your joint and improve your gait and balance
• Strengthening and mobilizing exercises for your spine
• Keeping the joints moving by doing regular exercises
• Pacing your activities so that you don’t over stress your joints
• Hot or cold compresses may be given in the form of a hot shower or bath, or by applying heating pads or cold compresses.
• Joint protection devices such as braces for knees can prevent strain or stress on painful joints.
• Integrative therapy such as acupuncture has been shown to help relieve pain. While research is conflicting, there is some evidence that the supplements glucosamine and chondroitin may relieve some pain in some people with osteoarthritis, especially in the knee. Several other dietary supplements (including herbals) sometimes help OA pain.
• Steroid injections: Your doctor can inject these potent medicines directly into your joint to help relieve pain. Using them too frequently can cause joint damage.
• Narcotics: Stronger pain pills, such as narcotics, may be prescribed when osteoarthritis is severe and other treatments are not working.
• Surgery: When other treatment options have failed, some people may need surgery to relieve chronic pain in damaged joints.