Our bodies are constantly moving throughout the day. After a hard day's work, it is likely that some discomfort will emerge in the joints, back, and other areas of the body. However, when this pain becomes a hindrance to your daily routine or causes discomfort, then care must be taken. In this post, we discuss osteoarthritis, which is the most prevalent type of joint pain.
Many refer to it as degenerative joint disease or wear and tear. A joint is a part where two bones meet to allow movement. Examples are the shoulder joint, hip joint, knee joint, elbow joint, and so on. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of joint inflammation. It normally occurs on the parts of the body which carry more weight like the knees and feet, and sometimes the hands.
Present in a healthy joint, that is, the junction of two bones, are other structures that facilitate movement. The first is the cartilage that covers the surface of the bones. The cartilage is smooth and slippery which allows the bones to move freely against each other, it reduces friction and acts as shock absorbers. In between the cartilages are the synovial fluids.
When osteoarthritis occurs, parts of the cartilages that cover the bones become thinner. This causes the bones to become rougher and smooth movement is impeded. The body will naturally repair damaged tissues and hence, return everything to normal. Sometimes, the structure of the bones may change but there will be no pain or stiffness allowing for normal function. However, the repair does not always go well and changes in the structure of the joint may cause symptoms such as pain, stiffness, etc.
Some of the changes include:
· The growth of an extra bone at the edges of the joint is normally referred to as osteophytes.
· There can be more production of the fluid in between the cartilages which can cause inflammation (swelling).
· The tissues that surround the joint may lose their elasticity which can cause the joint to be less stable.
Osteoarthritis may be primary or secondary. Primary osteoarthritis occurs generally at the joints such as the knees, fingers, etc. but Secondary osteoarthritis is when an individual suffers from osteoarthritis due to an underlying condition such as injury, pre-existing joint abnormality, or infectious arthritis.
Symptoms of arthritis
The most common symptoms of arthritis are pain and stiffness. The pain worsens when the individual moves the joint or at the end of the day. The stiffness is observed when you position the joint at a certain posture for a long but it wears off as the individual begins to move. Also, there may be swelling in the joints. Furthermore, affected individuals may find it difficult to move their joints. They may experience a grating or crackling sound when the affected joint is moved.
Osteoarthritis differs from person to person and between the affected joints. Some may have mild symptoms which are temporary whilst others experience throbbing symptoms that hinder their daily activities.
Causes of osteoarthritis
It occurs when there is damage to the cartilages that affect the bones. Many factors may cause this. Below are a few:
1. Age – osteoarthritis usually begins in people aged 40 and above. This is because the body takes longer to heal as a person ages plus additional body structures may increase the risk for the infection.
2. Gender- this infection affects more women than men.
3. Obesity – it affects people who are obese, especially the knee joints and hip joints.
4. Injury in the joint- an operation or injury at the joint can predispose a person to this disease. Exercise does not cause osteoarthritis unless those that are hard, repetitive, and causes strain on the body.
5. Abnormal joint – individuals who were born with an abnormal joint are likely to encounter osteoarthritis in their lifetime.
6. Genetics -some individuals have genes that can affect the composition of the cartilage-collagen, increasing their risk of infection.
7. Weather – it is important to note that, the weather can worsen the pain of an individual who already presents with the infection but cannot cause it.
8. Diet- some diets can either worsen or decrease the pain of affected individuals.
The affected joints
Osteoarthritis can affect any joint in the body. The most affected joints include the knees, hip, hands, feet and spine.
The doctor will diagnose you with this infection based on the following:
· The symptoms you present with especially pain and stiffness and how they affect your daily activities.
· Physical examination such as creaking of the joints, joint instability, bony swelling and others.
· Mostly, blood tests are not needed but they may be requested to rule out other forms of arthritis.
· X-rays are normally not required.
Osteoarthritis cannot be cured but it can be managed and improved with time. Mild symptoms can be treated with exercise, proper footwear, and losing weight if you are overweight. Severe cases may need medications such as painkillers and a physical exercise plan with a physiotherapist.
Prevention of osteoarthritis
This infection can be prevented by a majority of individuals. Three main activities that can help include:
1. Exercise- avoid exercises that cause strain on the joints. Instead, engage in exercises such as brisk walking, swimming, and biking at least twice a week.
2. Posture – adjust your posture every day. Do not remain in one position for a long period. Walk around at the least opportunity and get your muscles moving.
3. Lose weight – it is advisable to lose weight if you are overweight or obese to avoid putting strain on your joints.
1. NHS. Osteoarthritis. Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/osteoarthritis/
2. VERSUSARTHRITIS. Osteoarthritis. Retrieved from https://www.versusarthritis.org/about-arthritis/conditions/osteoarthritis/
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