What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease with breakdown and eventual loss of the cartilage of one or more joints. Osteoarthritis occurs more frequently with age – commonly affecting the hands, feet, spine, and weight-bearing joints such as the hips and knees.
What causes osteoarthritis?
(Osteoarthritis not resulting from injury or disease). Primary osteoarthritis is common as a result of natural aging of the joint. The joint cartilage degenerates causing loss of the cartilage cushion between the bones of the joints. (Ref image below)
Repetitive use of the worn joints over the years can irritate and inflame the cartilage, causing joint pain and swelling. Loss of the cartilage cushion causes friction between the bones, leading to pain and limitation of joint mobility. Inflammation of the cartilage can also stimulate new bone outgrowths (spurs, also referred to as osteophytes) to form around the joints.
Its a form of osteoarthritis that is caused by another disease or condition. These include obesity, repeated trauma or surgery to the joint structures, abnormal joints at birth (congenital abnormalities), gout, diabetes, and other hormone disorders.
Obesity causes osteoarthritis by increasing the mechanical stress on the joint and therefore on the cartilage. Next to aging, obesity is the most significant risk factor for osteoarthritis of the knees. The early development of osteoarthritis of the knees among weight lifters is believed to be in part due to their heavy body weight.
What are the signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis?
- Pain in the affected joint, associated with swelling, warmth, and creaking of the affected joints.
- Progressive cartilage degeneration of the knee joints can lead to deformity and outward curvature of the knees, which is referred to as being “bowlegged.”
- People with osteoarthritis of the weight-bearing joints (such as the knees) can develop a limp.
- Osteoarthritis of the cervical spine or lumbar spine causes pain in the neck or low back.
- Bony spurs that form along the arthritic spine can irritate spinal nerves, causing severe pain with numbness and tingling of the affected part.
How is osteoarthritis diagnosed?
There is no blood test for the diagnosis of osteoarthritis. Blood tests are performed to exclude diseases that can cause secondary osteoarthritis, as well as to exclude other arthritis conditions that can mimic osteoarthritis.
X-rays of the affected joints can be used to diagnose osteoarthritis.
The common X-ray findings of osteoarthritis include loss of joint cartilage, narrowing of the joint space between adjacent bones, and bone spur formation. Simple X-ray testing can also be very helpful to exclude other causes of pain in a particular joint as well as assisting the decision-making as to when surgical intervention might be considered.
What is the treatment for osteoarthritis?
The goal of treatment in osteoarthritis is to reduce joint pain and inflammation while improving and maintaining joint function.
There is no specific treatment to halt cartilage degeneration or to repair damaged cartilage in osteoarthritis.
Some of the treatment guidelines are:
- Weight reduction and diet control
- Avoiding activities that exert excessive stress on the joint cartilage
- Medications: topical, oral, or injections into the joints to decrease joint inflammation and pain.
- Food supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin may relieve symptoms of pain and stiffness in some people.
- Swimming is particularly well suited for patients with osteoarthritis because it allows patients to exercise with minimal impact stress to the joints.
- In select cases, surgery can be considered.
Physiotherapy and Exercise
- Strengthens the muscular support around the joints
- Prevents the joints from “freezing up” and improves and maintains joint mobility.
- Helps with weight reduction and promotes endurance.
- Exercises include walking, stationary cycling, and light weight training.
- Physical therapists can provide mechanical support devices, such as splints, canes, walkers, and braces. These devices can be helpful in reducing stress on the joints.
- Spine symptoms can improve with a neck collar, lumbar corset, or a firm mattress, depending on what areas are involved.
Surgery is generally reserved for those patients with osteoarthritis that is particularly severe and unresponsive to the conservative treatments.
- Arthroscopy can be helpful when cartilage tears are suspected.
- Osteotomy is a bone-removal procedure that can help realign some of the deformity in selected patients.
- Arthrodesis: fusion of a joint
- Arthroplasty: replacement with an artificial joint like total hip and total knee replacements.
To book an appointment with the Physiotherapist:
Call: 080 – 33197515 or