What Is Osteoarthritis?

What Is Osteoarthritis?

We all know someone who suffers from arthritis. In fact, you may be having problems with arthritis yourself, but… what is arthritis? Arthritis is inflammation of one or more joints that causes increased pain and limited mobility of the joint. There are dozens of different types of arthritis, but the most common form is osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis, also known as OA, is a degenerative condition that results from wear and tear on a joint over the years. OA can develop in any joint, but is most frequently found in the hands, neck, low back, knees, hips, and shoulders. The breakdown of bone and cartilage in the joint is often referred to as “bone-on-bone.” The cartilage in your joints serves as a cushion to absorb the forces caused by everyday activities such as walking and jumping. As that cushion wears down, it leads to painful movements and limited range of motion, which can prevent you from doing your normal work and daily activities. The breakdown of cartilage can be made worse by prior injuries, vehicle accidents, or genetics and can begin with sudden or gradual increase in pain.

Treatment for osteoarthritis is based on the severity of the symptoms. Rest, anti-inflammatory medication, and physical therapy are conservative treatment options that are effective in treating mild to moderate cases of OA. While therapy will not reverse the damage to the joint, it can help to slow the degenerative process and improve mobility by helping to reduce pain, improve strength, and restore range of motion. Physical therapy can help delay or eliminate the need for more aggressive treatments such as injections or surgery.

Your diet can also play an important role in controlling arthritis symptoms. Foods high in processed sugars, saturated fat, artificial sweeteners, or gluten can increase inflammation in your body. Excessive alcohol consumption may also can increase inflammation. Cutting back on these foods and increasing the proportion of fruits and vegetables in your diet will help to reduce inflammation. Also, consider replacing some of your red meat with fish. Fish is a good source of protein and is generally much lower in saturated fat than red meat. Fish is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids which can help reduce inflammation (and is also good for your heart!)

Unfortunately, arthritis is not a condition that will remedy itself. If you are suffering with joint pain that prevents you from doing your normal daily activities and keeps you from being as active as you’d like, consider seeking treatment from your physician. The earlier treatment is started, the more likely it is for conservative treatment to have positive results.

NOTE: Figure A: X-ray image of healthy knee and arthritis knee. Figure B: Artistic image of healthy and arthritic knee. Images courtesy of American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.