Osteoarthritis, commonly referred to as OA, is the most common form of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is degenerative form of arthritis that is caused by the breakdown of cartilage over time. Also known as "wear and tear" arthritis, osteoarthritis occurs when damaged cartilage is unable to absorb shock in the joint. As cartilage breaks down, there is an increase in friction between joints, the ends of bones rub together which leads to painful osteoarthritis symptoms. In addition, the reduction of cartilage causes the joint to weaken resulting in the stretching of ligaments and tendons, bone spurs, and tiny pieces of bone or cartilage breaking off into the joint.
In general, symptoms of osteoarthritis include pain, tenderness, stiffness, decreased flexibility, popping, and swelling in or around the joint. Although, there is no cure for osteoarthritis, there are several ways to treat the disease. Below we have listed a variety of treatment options that are available to help guide you in effectively treating your symptoms of osteoarthritis.
Improving your diet and exercise habits can be very beneficial in reducing painful symptoms of osteoarthritis. Eating healthy by lowering the intake of fatty foods can significantly reduce your weight. Weight reduction is key in reducing symptoms of osteoarthritis. The goal is to reduce the amount stress on weight bearing joints like the knee or hip. In addition, exercise can greatly improve the range of motion for your joints. You should employ a combination of stretching, strength-training, and aerobic exercises to improve the range of motion of an affected joint. While it may not seem that exercise would be beneficial, it actually greatly improves joint flexibility. In severe cases, where normal exercise does not help to improve painful symptoms or your range of motion, you may need to consult a doctor. A doctor may recommend physical or occupational therapy. Both physical therapy and occupational therapy are common treatments for osteoarthritis. Physical therapy involves incorporating targeted exercises aimed at strengthening the muscle around a joint, while occupational therapy involves finding less painful ways to complete everyday tasks.
Depending on your level of pain, osteoarthritis can be managed with over-the-counter oral and topical medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, commonly referred to as NSAIDs, are the most common over-the-counter oral medication used to reduce joint inflammation and pain. NSAIDs can consist of acetaminophen, aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen. While NSAIDs aid in pain management, there are several side effects that can be dangerous, especially to those over age 65. We recommend consulting a doctor before taking any medications. NSAIDs are also available as topical medications. Less side effects are associated with topical medications. Topical medications include gels, creams, or injections that are directly applied to the affected joint.
In rare cases, surgery may be recommended to treat osteoarthritis. If a joint is severely damaged, your doctor may recommend joint replacement surgery. Joint replacement surgery involves replacing damaged joint surfaces with plastic or artificial components. However, artificial joints can also wear out, and repeated joint replacement surgery came become ineffective overtime. Osteotomy, or bone realignment, is another surgery the doctor may recommend in order to reduce painful symptoms of osteoarthritis. This surgery is normally done on the knee, and involves realigning bones in order to shift weight away from the damaged part of the knee. Less invasive surgeries such as arthroscopy, are available to reduce pain temporarily. A tiny incision is made into the affected joint so that the surgeon can see the damage, and attempt to remove loose pieces of cartilage and damaged tissue. In addition, cortisone and lubrication injections are other less invasive treatment alternatives that treat osteoarthritis. Cortisone shots involve injecting corticosteroids medications directly into the joint. Lubrication shots involves injecting hyaluronic acid directly into the joint. Both injections reduce pain inside the joint.