Patriot Health Zone

What is Osteoarthritis and How to Manage it?

Can a ticking clock stop? Yes, if the question is about a mechanical clock sitting on a desk, and No, for the natural clock that keeps ticking. Unlike the mechanical clock that needs to replace batteries frequently, the natural clock doesn’t need batteries to function. The natural clock never stops for anyone, and neither does our biological clock, which continues to tick through our lives, enduring all the soreness it brings.

As we age, our body tends to transform a lot. Everything from physical endurance to mental cognition drastically starts to decay. The bones that once were rock-solid and sturdy become delicate and feeble, and several illnesses begin to show up. One such condition is arthritis, where the joints are inflamed as they get worn down. Every one in five adults experiences arthritis at some point in life (1). There are almost 100 kinds of arthritis, and Osteoarthritis is one of them. 

Even though arthritis is an incurable condition, active lifestyle modifications, symptomatic treatment, and alternative medicine can help manage it quite well. Let’s know a bit about one of the many types of arthritis, i.e., Osteoarthritis.

What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is the most typical age-related chronic disease, affecting 32.5 million U.S adults till June 2020 (2). Osteoarthritis is popularly known as wear and tear arthritis, which is prevalent in the aging population due to several age-related bodily changes (3). Although the younger population can also get Osteoarthritis, it’s more likely to affect people over 60 years of age (4). Moreover, it is evident from research that post-menopausal women are more prone to developing Osteoarthritis (5)

It happens when the cartilage, a protective tissue present at the junction of two bones, wears off, causing friction in the joints. Any joint of the body can experience this degeneration of cartilage; however, weight-bearing joints such as knees, hips, and spine are at high risk. 

What causes Osteoarthritis?

Many risk factors contribute to this degenerative joint disease, including:

Age – there is a reciprocal relationship between aging and the risk of developing Osteoarthritis. The cascades of senescence cellular responses are responsible for it (6). 

Obesity – the second most common cause of Osteoarthritis is obesity. It triggers Osteoarthritis in two ways. 

  • First, by hurting the weight-bearing joints, i.e., hip and knee joint increasing the propensity to Osteoarthritis. 
  • Second, by imparting its metabolic effects, obesity increases the risk of Osteoarthritis in non-weight bearing joints as well, e.g., hand joints (7). 

Genetics – people having family members with Osteoarthritis are more likely to develop the disease in the later years (8). 

Gender – post menopausal women are at two folds higher risk of getting Osteoarthritis. 

Injury or Overuse – Continuous use of a specific joint or injury may increase the chances of Osteoarthritis in that particular joint.

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis 

The symptoms are not apparent at first, but gradually and steadily, you will begin to notice two or more of the below-mentioned signs of Osteoarthritis. 

  • Unbearable pain in the osteoarthritic joint while performing a function or right after that.
  • You may feel stiffness in the joints almost every time. 
  • Restricted range of motion resulting in immense pain while trying to move the joint. 
  • Creaking joint sound upon bending. 
  • Deep swelling around the inflamed joint.
  • Instable joints.
  • Muscles surrounding the joints lose their strength.
  • Deformation of bones causing extreme pain in that area. 
  • Permanent damage to joints can also occur.

Diagnosis

The doctor performs a physical exam on the patient’s body to check for any swellings, tenderness, range of motion, and other physically observable signs.

He would then prescribe a few tests elaborated below.

  • Blood tests – To identify any underlying disease that may have been exhibiting the symptoms in the form of joint irritability.
  • Joint fluid aspiration – The fluid accumulated in the affected joint is taken out with the help of a needle and sent for analysis. This test is performed to confirm the root cause of the swelling, i.e., either Osteoarthritis or infection.
  • X-rays – Any damage to bone or cartilage can be seen through X-Ray reports.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – To get a clear image of bones and cartilage in order to make accurate diagnoses.

How to treat Osteoarthritis?

Unfortunately, once developed, Osteoarthritis can’t be reversed by any treatment. However, both pharmacological and non-pharmacological approaches can subside the symptoms of pain and inflammation. 

Medicines 

  • Analgesics – to reduce pain.
  • NSAIDs (Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs) – to ease off the symptoms of inflammation.
  • Corticosteroids – to reduce inflammation.
  • Platelet Rich Plasma – to ease pain and inflammation.

Alternative therapy

  • Mild exercise
  • Medical Massage therapy – to improve the range of motion

Management

Osteoarthritis is undoubtedly an excruciating condition with no permanent cure. Yet, managing it skillfully can exceptionally improve the life quality. Here are a few super doable managing strategies to help you reduce the symptoms of Osteoarthritis:

Lose weight – obese individual’s weight presents more harm to his joints than anything. Reducing a considerable amount of weight helps your weight-bearing joints function appropriately with the least friction. 

Exercise – involve in physical activity according to your health conditions and requirements. Avoid fast-paced, intense workouts and go for low to medium-paced smooth movements. Exercising routinely will reduce the risk of other age-related diseases, including heart strokes and diabetes. 

Heat and cold therapy – treat your body with hot and cold packs to relieve the swollen joints.  

Protect your joints – be easy on your joints while exercising. Always choose mild forms of workout over vigorous ones. Use joint sleeves or braces to protect your joints from any possible injury that could worsen your arthritis. 

Avoid exertion – overexertion on joints, both weight-bearing and non-weight-bearing, may result in injury. Choose your workout program wisely. Here is a guideline provided by the Central of disease control and prevention for practical exercises for arthritis (9).

Take Away

Old age brings myriads of challenges in one’s life. One of which is, having to deal with cureless chronic illnesses. However, nothing in this world can keep you from cherishing the gift of life you are blessed with. 

Make the most of this life!

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