What is Osteoarthritis (OA)?


Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis, affecting more than 27 million people in the US alone, usually over the age of 45. With life expectancy on the rise, it is important to care for your joints to maintain your quality of life for as long as possible.

Osteoarthritis is a painful disease that mostly affects the cartilage in the joints.  Cartilage is the spongy and slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones in a joint and acts as a shock absorber and lubricant for the joint. Healthy cartilage allows the bones to glide over each other smoothly.

erosive osteoarthritisCartilage starts wearing out

However, as we age, our cartilage can start to thin and wear away, which allows the bone ends under the cartilage to wear away.

The bone ends rubbing together can cause pain, swelling, loss of motion of the joint, and a lack of flexibility. Over time, it can produce significant disability if proper measures aren’t taken to care for the joints.

OA can be complicated by osteoporosis, a thinning of the bone, which can produce rough, pitted bone surfaces, and bone spurs. These can cause pain and further damage, especially if tendons and ligaments stretch over them when you are moving, causing the ‘snap, crackle and pop’ we associate with older, creaking joints.

Osteoporosis can result from sports or vehicle-related accidents

OA can also be the result of injury from sports, or from vehicle-related accidents.  Extreme sports when young can all add up to wear and tear over time, and eventually require joint replacement, such as knee replacement surgery. Middle-aged ‘weekend warriors’ are also prone to overdoing things when they finally do exercise.

A complicating factor of OA is weight. Being overweight puts a lot of pressure on all the joints, particularly hips and knees.  As the bones begin to grind together, fragments of bone or cartilage can snap off and float inside the joint capsule, causing even more pain and damage.

Not working out will make OA worse

People with osteoarthritis often avoid working out because of their joint pain, but this will lead to even more damage, reduced motion, and pain. The pain is also caused by inflammation in the body, that is, persistent irritation.

We are not yet sure what causes inflammation, but some people with OA have had success in relieving their symptoms though an anti-inflammatory diet of healthy foods, and lowering their stress levels.

If your aches and pains are becoming more frequent, visit your doctor for lab tests to determine whether or not they are symptoms of arthritis.

What is Osteoarthritis - A short Introduction

This is a short video to explain the most important things you need to know about Osteoarthritis.

Please let us know what you think and ask any questions you have about this condition and what you can do to make it better in the comments.

Video Transcript:

Scene 1 - Introduction & statistics

Living with pain, stiffness, or inflammation of the joints can be a sign of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting one-third of U.S. adults over the age of 65. In this video we explain what causes osteoarthritis, what it does to your body and some of the best treatments that are available today.

Scene 2 - The cause of Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is mostly caused by wear and tear of aging joints, but excessive weight, extreme physical activity, or repetitive manual tasks can make it worse faster. Osteoarthritis is also linked to genetic predispositions, inflammation, diet and damage to the bone underneath the cartilage which supplies the cartilage with nutrition.

Scene 3 - The Healthy Function of a joint

A joint is where two bones meet. The ends of these bones are cushioned by a smooth, slippery layer of articular cartilage, much like the rubbery cartilage found on the tip of a chicken leg. Movable joints are surrounded by a synovial membrane that contains a liquid called synovial fluid.

Scene 4 - How does the disease affect the joint's function

Osteoarthritis occurs when the joint cartilage erodes, and the bones begin to grate against one another. Bone spurs are protrusions that can grow from the bone as a result of this constant friction. Osteoarthritis can affect any joint of the body, but it is most prevalent in Knees, hips, big toes, spine and hands.

Scene 5 - Home Remedies for Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis has no cure, but there are a variety of options to treat the disease. If the disease is caught early and there is just some wear and tear, some of the joint can be preserved through simple but consistent lifestyle changes. Oral supplements like glucosamine sulphate can help the body repair the damage or increase synovial fluid in the joints.

Scene 6 - Medication for Osteoarthritis

Anti-inflammatories will temporarily relieve pain but probably speed up the process of joint degeneration. For overweight individuals it’s important to reduce sugar including bread, rice and breakfast cereals, which helps to lose weight and reduces inflammation. Sugar itself produces inflammation in the body. Riding a bicycle for 5 minutes 4 times per day improves circulation in the joint and pilates is good for muscle strength.

Scene 7 - Medical Intervention

Medical interventions are also an option if the cartilage is completely eroded and the joint’s bones are rubbing together. Anti-inflammatory hormones like cortisone can be injected to reduce the pain temporarily but they make arthritis worse over time. Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or paracetamol can also be used and when they aren’t enough, a doctor can prescribe a mild opiate like codeine to help with the pain.

Scene 8 - Medical Intervention

As a last resort, arthritis patients may turn to surgery to replace the bad joint with an artificial metal or ceramic joint. In recent years Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy and Stem Cells have been used to reduce pain and repair some of the damage caused by Osteoarthritis to avoid or delay surgery.

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