Your joints are stiff, they are achy, and not to mention swollen! You may have tried taking over-the-counter medication with only mild relief of symptoms. If it takes several steps in the morning to loosen your joints just to get going, you may have osteoarthritis or OA.
I hate to say it but OA is just a part of life. Your joints are designed to last a long, long time, but not forever. Eventually the wear and tear placed on our joints leads to the loss of cartilage that provides cushion to our joints and protection to our bones. Once cartilage is lost the bones begin to rub, leading to the painful symptoms of arthritis.
People who have physically demanding jobs as well as those who are very active in sports can experience arthritis at earlier ages than most and in greater severity. Middle age is usually when symptoms are first noticed, and by age 70 almost everyone will have at least one joint affected. Being overweight doesn’t help either.
Diagnosis of OA is determined by patient history, clinical examination, x-rays and distribution of affected joints. When arthritis affects each limb equally sometimes another type of arthritis is to blame and consultation of a rheumatologist may be required.
Conservative treatment is indicated for most patients and can include:
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Over the counter supplements
- Supportive shoes or insoles
- Injections for acute pain
- Custom orthotics or bracing.
Surgery may be required to treat severe arthritis or prevent worsening of condition. Surgery can reduce deformities that lead to joint wear, remove inflammation and stimulate new cartilage growth, and sometimes involves removal or replacement of affected joints.
Just remember, wear and tear of our joints is unavoidable, but with the proper treatment, you can live a less painful life and continue the things you enjoy.