What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a long-lasting and chronic condition of the joint where the cartilage ruptures, and causes the joints to rub, resulting in pain. The cartilage covers the surface of the bones and its damage, stiffness, pain, and various other symptoms. It is a common condition affecting different joints in the body but mostly occurs in the weight-bearing joints of the knee and the feet. Most people may develop the condition with old age when the joints also age, although they may not know it.

The changes due to this condition may develop gradually over several years. Injury or inflammation in the joint may cause changes in the bones, cause damage to the tendons and ligaments, and break down the cartilage, resulting in swelling, pain, and deformity of the joint. It affects the thumb, spine, knees, hips, fingers, and toes at the primary stage. Cartilage rupture in the secondary stage may cause gout, rheumatoid arthritis, infectious arthritis, or genetic joint disorders.

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Osteoarthritis is a long-lasting and chronic condition of the joint where the cartilage ruptures, and causes the joints to rub, resulting in pain.

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis:

The symptoms of the condition may develop gradually and worsen over time. The commonest symptoms are:

  • Pain or ache in the joint during an activity or prolonged activity
  • Stiffness in the joint occurring in the morning or after a long period of resting
  • Cracking or clicking sound when the joints bend
  • Restricted range of motion that reduces after movement
  • Swelling and weakness of the muscle around the joint
  • Instability of the joint or buckling when the knee gives out
  • Knobby and hard swelling on the finger joints due to the growth of extra bone
  • Soft swelling on the affected joint is caused due to the thickening of the joint lining and excess fluid inside the joint capsule
  • Reduced flexibility of the joint and inability of moving them in the full motion range
  • Stiffness of the joints
  • The joints may feel pain during or after the movement

The structure of the joint loses stability and becomes weakened over the period.

Causes of Osteoarthritis:

The cause of the condition is not prominent, but the primary causes are:

  • The bodily changes appearing due to aging, such as weight gain, weakened muscles and losing the ability of healing
  • Obesity or excessive body weight stressing the weight-bearing joints, such as the hip or the knee.
  • People born with abnormalities or children developing such symptoms are more likely to suffer from joint disorders
  • A major blow or injury on the joint may lead to the condition and physically tiring jobs are likely to increase the risk
  • The genes may also inherit the disease on the knee, hip, or the hand
  • Diseases, such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis, may damage the joints and lead to this condition
  • Weather and diet may also increase joint stiffening or pain, but they are not the direct cause.

When to See a Physiotherapist for Osteoarthritis:

People with this condition need to consult with physical therapists immediately after diagnosis to stay active and independent. They assess the condition of patients and:

  • Help people feel confident
  • Allow them to manage the uncertainties and concerns
  • Create appropriate goals to stay active
  • Offers advice to patients

The treatment options of physiotherapists may include:

  • Strengthening and flexibility exercises
  • Advice on increasing the activities and prevent injuries associated with exercises
  • Using pain-relief treatments, such as ice or heat packs, massage, acupuncture, taping, manipulation, and TENS.
  • Using splints or walking aids to increase mobility
  • Applying cold and hot therapy
  • Using hydrotherapy

Staying active is an integral part of managing osteoarthritis. Often people dread exercises and think that they might worsen the damage or increase the pain. Exercises increase the fitness level and help in maintaining a healthy weight.

Risks of Osteoarthritis:

It is a degenerative joint disease that worsens over time, and the possible complications linked to this disease are:

  • Complete or rapid breakdown of cartilage creating loose tissues in the joint
  • Stress fracture or hairline cracks that develop in response to stress or injury
  • Bleeding inside the joint
  • Stiffness and joint pain may worsen, resulting in chronic pain and disability
  • Sleep disturbances and depression may also result from this condition

How to Prevent Osteoarthritis:

It may not be possible to control the risks of this condition but managing them can help in preventing them.

  • Hard-core athletes must wear supports and know how to reduce the impact on the knees
  • Varying the sports allow all the muscles to work out and reduces the stress on one muscle
  • Checking the body mass index is necessary to ensure that it stays in a suitable range based on height and gender
  • Getting adequate rest
  • People with diabetes must control blood sugar to prevent the risk of this condition
  • Not ignoring joint stiffness and pain may prevent the symptoms to recur, and improve the quality of life

Treatments of Osteoarthritis:

There is no cure for this condition. Mild to moderate symptoms can be managed with medicinal and non-medicinal treatments. The treatment options are:

  • Medications such as oral painkillers, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines, and topical ointments must be used under the doctor’ supervision.
  • Alternating the hot and cold packs
  • Land and water-based exercises
  • Eating a healthy diet, managing cholesterol, and diabetes
  • Using complementary and alternative medicines like supplements and vitamins
  • Using supportive devices such as orthotics, cane, walker, shoe inserts, and braces

Surgery helps to restore joint functions and relieve pain when all the other options fail.

Related Conditions:

Several disorders may affect the bones and joints, such as rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, spondyloarthritis, gout, lupus, and bursitis. A professional physiotherapist can help manage pain and other symptoms.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are the long-term consequences of osteoarthritis?
The condition results in chronic pain, stiffness, sleep disturbances, and depression.
2. Which body parts does the condition affect the most?
The condition affects the lower back, hands, neck, and weight-bearing joints, such as the hips, knees, and feet.

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