Osteoarthritis (Degenerative Arthritis)

Osteoarthritis (OA), also known as degenerative arthritis, is a common condition that can affect any joint in your body. Find out what OA is, its causes, symptoms and treatment.

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What is OA? 

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis and is caused by wear and tear due to excessive use over the years, or old injuries in the affected joints. It commonly affects people over 60 years of age.

OA mostly affects the large weight-bearing joints like the knees, hips and spine, causing pain and stiffness which is worst at the end of the day. The affected person may have difficulty walking, climbing stairs, squatting or kneeling.

A condition that tends to worsen with time, there is unfortunately no cure for OA. However, there are medications available to relieve and help you gain control over your OA pain.

Osteoarthritis Causes and Risk Factors

OA is caused by the wearing down of the cartilage, a substance that helps to cushion the ends of bones in your joints. This deterioration of the smooth surface of the cartilage may be due to a combination of factors such as being overweight, joint trauma or injury, muscle weakness, family history and age. In most cases, the cause of the joint problem is not obvious.

Over time, there will be a complete loss of the cartilage, causing both ends of the bones to rub against each other. This results in bone damage and, eventually, deformity.

Osteoarthritis Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of OA include:
Joint pains, usually after prolonged use or after a period of inactivity
Loss of flexibility which may make it difficult to use the joint
Grating of a joint with motion
Bony lumps forming around the affected joint
Redness, warmth and swelling of the joint(s) in some cases

The knees, hips, spine and hands are the joints commonly affected in OA.

Osteoarthritis Treatment

The treatment of OA depends on which joints are involved. Your doctor will give you painkillers to relieve the pain and reduce swelling. You may also be referred to a physiotherapist to help you learn some techniques on how to increase the strength of your muscles and joints. Sometimes splints and braces may be required to support weakened joints. For severe OA, you may need surgery to repair or replace the affected joint.

Self-care

Some tips to help you improve your condition:

Weight Control

If you are overweight, losing some weight will reduce the strain on your hips and knees.

Physiotherapy and Exercise

Working with your physiotherapist is important for maintaining strength in the muscles around the joints, and reducing stiffness in the affected joints. You should also exercise regularly to keep fit. Choose exercises which do not strain your joints, such as swimming.

Heat Treatment and Medication

Warm baths and heating pads are soothing to painful joints. Sometimes, your physiotherapist may use a form of electrical treatment to help relieve your pain and stiffness. Your doctor may also prescribe some medicines for the pain.

Walking Aids

Good footwear and a walking stick may help you move around more comfortably.

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Osteoarthritis (Degenerative Arthritis)

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