Osteoarthritis Also called: OA or degenerative arthritis. This degenerative joint disease is the most common form of arthritis, affecting millions of people worldwide. OA occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions joints wears down over time. Although Osteoarthritis can damage any joint, the disorder most commonly affects joints in your knees, hands, hips and spine.
The Symptoms of OA
Osteoarthritis symptoms usually develop slowly and will worsen over time. Signs and symptoms of Osteoarthritis may include:
- Pain. Affected joints may hurt during or after some activities.
- Stiffness. Joint stiffness usually occurs with inactivity and improves with movement.
- Tenderness. Your joints may be tender to the touch or with certain activities.
- Loss of mobility. You may not be able to move your joint through a full range of motion.
- Grating sensation. You may feel a grating sensation when you use a joint, we call this crepetis.
- Bone spurs. These extra bone growths, which can feel like hard bumps, around the joint.
- Swelling. Can occur around the affected joint.
Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage that cushions the ends of bones in your joints starts to gradually deteriorate. Cartilage is a firm, connective tissue that enables nearly frictionless joint motion. Eventually, if the cartilage wears down completely, your bones will begin to rub on bone, often referred to as bone on bone.
Besides the breakdown of cartilage, Osteoarthritis can affect the entire joint. It will change the bone and cause deterioration of the connective tissue. It may also cause inflammation in the joint lining.
Osteoarthritis can’t be reversed, but there are treatments that can reduce pain and help you move better and live a potentially normal lifestyle.
Medications that can help relieve osteoarthritis symptoms, primarily pain, include:
- Acetaminophen. Acetaminophen has been shown to help some people with osteoarthritis who have mild to moderate pain. Remember: Taking more than the recommended dose of acetaminophen can cause liver damage.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Over-the-counter NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve, others), taken at the recommended doses, typically relieve osteoarthritis pain. Stronger NSAIDs are available by prescription. NSAIDs can cause stomach upset, cardiovascular problems, bleeding problems, and liver and kidney damage. NSAIDs as gels, applied to the skin over the affected joint, have fewer side effects and often relieve pain as well.
- Duloxetine (Cymbalta). Normally used as an antidepressant, this medication is also approved to treat chronic pain, including osteoarthritis pain and nerve pain.
- Physical therapy. One of the first line treatments for arthritis. Doctors will often order physical therapy to help relieve pain and regain strength. A physical therapist can show you exercises to strengthen the muscles around your joint, increase your flexibility and reduce pain. Regular exercise that you do on your own, such as swimming or walking, will often be very effective as well.
- Occupational therapy. An Occupational therapist can help you discover ways to do everyday tasks without putting extra stress on your already painful joint. For instance, a thicker writing pen may make it easier to write if you have Osteoarthritis in your hands. A taller Toilet could help relieve the pain of standing up after using the toilet, if you have knee Osteoarthritis.
Other Treatment Options
- Cortisone injections. Injections of corticosteroid medications may relieve pain in your joint. During this procedure your doctor numbs the area around your joint, then places a needle into the space within your joint and injects medication. The number of cortisone injections you can receive each year is generally limited to three or four injections, because the medication can worsen joint damage over time.
- Lubrication injections. Often referred to as Gel injections by patients. These are injections of hyaluronic acid and often offer pain relief by providing some cushioning in your knee, though some research suggests these injections offer no more relief than a placebo. Hyaluronic acid is similar to a component normally found in your joint fluid.
- Joint replacement. In joint replacement surgery, your surgeon removes your damaged joint and replaces it with a new prosthetic joint. Surgical risks include infections and blood clots. Artificial joints can wear out or come loose and may need to eventually be replaced.