May is National Arthritis Awareness Month


Aching knees, sore back, and painful shoulders. These areas are just some of the joints that are commonly affected by osteoarthritis. There are over 100 different types of classified arthritis and osteoarthritis is the most common. Osteoarthritis, sometimes referred to as degenerative joint disease, affects millions of people every single day all over the world. However, living with osteoarthritis does not have to mean that you have to stop being active, take a daily oral medication, or have a joint replacement. There are several options for people with osteoarthritis to live actively and pain free.

Osteoarthritis can affect any joint in your body, but most commonly affects the hands, knees, hips, and spine. Osteoarthritis occurs when the healthy cartilage on the ends of bones becomes inflamed and breaks down, creating an uneven articulation for joint surfaces to glide over time. The affected joint may even lose its natural shape and small bone growths, called spurs or osteophytes, may develop on the edges of the joint. This is due to the cartilage thinning and the bone ends rubbing together.

The stress on the exposed bone from the increased friction cause these growths to occur. While the cause of osteoarthritis is not fully understood, this condition typically begins slowly with a few minor symptoms and progresses over time.

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

Some of the most common symptoms that people with osteoarthritis experience include pain and stiffness in joints, loss of range of motion, and sometimes swelling. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, especially if they increase towards the end of the day you may want to consult your physician. Osteoarthritis can typically be diagnosed by physical examination and x-ray.

In some cases, further testing may be prescribed. There is no known cure for osteoarthritis, but there are options for people with the condition to control the symptoms and to slow the progression. Conservative treatments include exercise, oral medications, joint supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin, topical pain medications, injectable steroids, synthetic joint lubricant injections, and/or physical therapy.

Treating Osteoarthritis

Staying active and maintaining a healthy diet and weight are key ways to manage the progression and pain associated with osteoarthritis. Patients that suffer from obesity will have more severe symptoms and the disease will progress faster in joints such as the knees and hips. Losing one pound of weight will decrease the pressure that is distributed across the knee joint when walking by four times.

By exercising, joint stiffness can decrease, flexibility can increase, and overall muscle strength will improve. Exercise will also promote the production of endorphins in the brain which can improve your attitude regarding having the disease, reduce stress, and help with pain relief. Low impact activity such as swimming, biking, and using the elliptical have proven to work best in the management of osteoarthritis pain and progression.

Unfortunately, for some, osteoarthritis will progress to ta point where his or her symptoms become incompatible with his or her lifestyle. At that point, and when conservative treatments have failed, it may be time for a consult about joint replacement options. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, and are concerned that you may be at risk for osteoarthritis, call today for a quick and easy appointment.

Our goal at Melander Sports Medicine is to keep you healthy and active. More information on osteoarthritis, contact our team of arthritis specialists. For an appointment call the sports medicine hotline at 636-62-SPORT (7-7678).

To watch animated videos about joint replacement options, visit our patient education knowledge base and select the area of interest.

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