Arthritis is one of the worst chronic pain conditions out there. And it’s pretty common, especially as you get older. But you might not have heard of the most common kind of arthritis, osteoarthritis. And odds are pretty good that you will find yourself dealing with it at some point. Around 13% of women and 10% of men will deal with it at some point in their life.
But what exactly is osteoarthritis? And how can you manage it?
What Is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a condition that affects the cartilage in your joints. Cartilage is a kind of spongy tissue that forms a cushion between your bones, allowing them to move smoothly against each other. It’s what makes it possible for us to move without damaging our bones.
But with osteoarthritis, this cartilage begins to break down over time and erode. As a result, your bones begin to push against each other, which leads to the development of bone spurs in the joints. The result is an extremely painful condition that leads to stiff joints and difficulty moving. Over time, as the cartilage between the joints continues to erode, it gradually become worse and worse.
There are a number of things that make your risk of osteoarthritis worse. To begin with, there’s obesity. People who are overweight are significantly more likely to develop the condition. That’s because the extra weight puts even more pressure on the cartilage, which makes it more likely to erode.
Second, there’s simply old age. The longer you live and walk around, the more wear you place on your joints. This means that older people are much more likely to have osteoarthritis. But just because you get older doesn’t make osteoarthritis inevitable. There are plenty of people who live well into old age and never develop the condition.
Finally, other joint conditions like regular arthritis can destroy the cartilage in your joints and thus lead to osteoarthritis.
It usually occurs in a few places. The most common form is in the knee but it can also strike the joints in your hands or your hip, but nearly anywhere can be affected.
The most obvious sign that you’re suffering from osteoarthritis is swollen joints that result from inflammation of the damaged tissue. The joints also tend to get stiff and painful. This is especially true after not using them for a while. So if you wake up in the morning with achy, stiff joints, then there’s a good chance that’s you’re dealing with.
What Can You Do To Treat It?
There’s no cure. And there’s no pill you can take that will regrow the lost cartilage between your bones. The most effective way to deal with osteoarthritis is to do what you can to prevent it from getting worse.
To begin with, if you’re overweight, it will be helpful to lose some of those extra pounds. Fewer pounds on your body means less pressure on your joints, which will help keep protect your cartilage. Secondly, if you, like a lot of people, work in a job that requires frequent use of your hands, like typing at a computer, make sure that you take a break regularly. The stress on your joints can make your arthritis worse.
But there are still ways to treat the condition. For instance, there are basic, over-the-counter painkillers like aspirin and ibuprofen. The advantage of these treatments is that not only are they easy to get and largely safe, but they also reduce the inflammation in the joints that makes it so painful.
In addition, you can get regular injections of corticosteroids to help control the inflammation. Corticosteroids are a kind of hormone the body produces naturally to reduce inflammation, but it can also be injected for therapeutic benefits.
Finally, if your osteoarthritis becomes very severe, doctors sometimes turn to surgery. This is most common in situations where the joints of the hips or knees are affected since severe damage to those joints makes walking very difficult. So the surgeon will essentially swap out the joint for an artificial one in a procedure commonly called a “joint replacement.”
This replacement joint is usually made of metal, plastic or ceramic and is grafted onto the bone so that it will grow into it, which lets it make up for the damaged joint.
So, have you dealt with this condition? What helps you? What doesn’t? Do you have any advice or questions for fellow sufferers? Let us know in the comments section below.