Osteoarthritis symptoms and treatment
Osteoarthritis is also known as degenerative arthritis and is the most common form of arthritis. Osteoarthritis (OA) occurs when the cartilage surrounding the joint wears away with time. OA can affect any joint but generally affects large joints like the hip, knees, shoulder neck and lower back. In most cases, OA worsens with time and it is estimated that close to 22 million people have some degree of osteoarthritis pain by the age of 50. Today, we have no cure for OA -most treatments only help relieve pain so that one can remain active.
The classic osteoarthritis symptoms include pain which occurs during movement and joint stiffness which is most pronounced in the morning. The joint stiffness generally tends to ease off towards the latter part of the day. Other osteoarthritis symptoms include pain when the joint is manipulated, loss of joint flexibility and limited range of motion. All individuals who have moderate to severe OA complain of a grinding or crunching sensation when they ambulate. The earliest suspicion of OA may be seen on an x ray which may reveal bony outgrowths.
The causes of OA include aging, joint injury, bad genes, muscle weakness and obesity. Individuals prone to OA include females, those with bone deformities, joint trauma, overweight and those with certain jobs where the joint is stressed.
The diagnosis of OA involves x rays and certain blood tests. Rarely, the physician may remove some fluid from your joint to make sure you have no infection.
Since there is no cure, osteoarthritis treatment is geared towards pain control and achieving a decent quality of life. Sometimes the doctor may numb the area of the joint and inject a corticosteroid several times a year. Other therapies for OA include participating in physical therapy and finding ways to avoid stressing the joints. This may mean a change of job or lifestyle. One can even wear braces to support the neck or back and use shoe inserts to support the lower back. All individuals with OA should enroll in a pain class program so that they can learn other ways to manage the chronic pain.
Today surgeons may also inject lubricant chemicals into the joint, and if that fails one may need a joint replacement. When the joint is completely destroyed, then the only option is to surgically fuse the joint.
One other aspect of osteoarthritis treatment involves a change in life style. This means having to rest when there is severe pain, exercising, losing weight and using cold and warm compresses to reduce swelling. One may even need an ambulatory device to get around. Other alternative osteoarthritis pain treatments include use of acupuncture, eating ginger and taking supplements of glucosamine and chondroitin. However, none of these treatments work all the time in all patients. Moreover such treatments are prohibitively expensive. The best way to live life with OA is to keep a positive attitude, practice relaxation and know what your limits are.