Stiff joints, pain in the knees or feet, difficulty opening jars, reduced range of motion in your neck or back – all of these are common arthritis symptoms. Arthritis is the most common degenerative joint disease, costing approximately 164 billion dollars a year in lost wages, lost productivity, and medical care. There are different types of arthritis, but the most common form is osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis occurs when there is a breakdown of the joint’s cartilage. Cartilage acts as a cushion within a joint. When the cartilage breaks down, it causes stiffness, pain, and limited range of motion. Sometimes joints can be swollen, red, and even hot to the touch. The most common sites for osteoarthritis are the hands, knees, and hips.
Osteoarthritis is more common as we age. Symptoms tend to appear after age 50 but can begin earlier and seems to affect more women than men. Early symptoms may include stiffness or pain in a joint after excessive use or extended periods of inactivity. For example, if you get up out of a chair, it may take a number of steps for you to “loosen up.” This is a common experience of someone with osteoarthritis in the hips, knees, or feet.
There is no one cause for osteoarthritis, though there are risk factors. Risk factors include:
- family history of arthritis
- being overweight or obese
- repeated overuse, as in repetitive movements as part of a job, sport or hobby
- a sedentary lifestyle
- prior joint injury
An exam and possibly an x-ray or MRI will be needed to diagnose osteoarthritis. Treatment will vary. Some people will do well with over-the-counter pain relievers as needed. Others may need prescription medication, physical or occupational therapy, a specific exercise regime, rest, or joint protectors. Sometimes surgery is suggested to repair damaged joints. Weight loss is recommended for those who are overweight or obese since excess body weight places excess of strain on the joint. Overall, it is important to maintain flexibility and movement in the joint, while not stressing the joint with overuse. While we may not be able to avoid arthritis as we age, we can work to reduce the pain and stiffness of arthritis and retain as much mobility as possible.
Source: Completely Well Newsletter, May 2021