What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. The condition is also known as degenerative joint disease. It affects the body in a number of ways, but it primarily affects the joints of the hands, knee, hips, and lower back. Specifically, the cartilage within the joints are damaged. Cartilage is a spongy tissue that acts as a cushion between bones. It helps to limit the contact between the bones by providing a smooth interface. As the cartilage degrades, the bones do not have a cushion between them. As a result, the surface of the bones rub against each other, causing damage to the ends of the bone.
Joint pain is the primary symptom. Routine activities that were once pain-free become difficult as the condition worsens. For some individuals, the joint may not be that badly damaged, yet osteoarthritis flare-up symptoms arise. Stiffness in the joints is another symptom. It is usually worse in the mornings and will gradually get better during the day. The range of motion of the joint can be reduced and bending over or grasping a cup may be difficult because of the reduced flexibility of the joints. Swelling and inflammation are rarely seen, but it is important to consult with the doctor if these symptoms arise.
Wear and tear of the joints are normally repaired by the cells. In individuals with osteoarthritis, this repair process is diminished. The cartilage breaks down and the surrounding bone tissue is damaged. Age is a contributing factor to osteoarthritis. As one ages, the body can’t adequately repair the wear and tear on the joints. Obesity is another factor that increases the risk of developing osteoarthritis. Also, previous conditions or diseases of the bones or joints, including fractures, infections, and surgery, can increase the risk. Osteoarthritis can develop from overuse activities, such as playing professional sports or working in labor intensive fields such as construction.
Preventing and Treating Osteoarthritis Flare-Ups
One of the ways to prevent osteoarthritis flare-up symptoms is to exercise. Regular exercise strengthens the muscles, which gives more support for bones and reduces the stress at the joints. Losing weight can also help by relieving the wear and tear on the joints. Another way to reduce the impact on the joints is to use shoe insoles and knee braces. When the pain and stiffness of a flare-up occurs, it is recommended to use heat and cold packs. Heat relieves stiffness and cold can relieve muscle spasms. Over-the-counter pain creams provide relief as well.
1. “Osteoarthritis Symptoms.” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/osteoarthritis/DS00019/DSECTION=symptoms
2. “Osteoarthritis Lifestyle and Home Remedies.” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/osteoarthritis/DS00019/DSECTION=lifestyle-and-home-remedies
3. “Osteoarthritis.” Patient UK. https://www.patient.co.uk/health/Osteoarthritis.htm