The persistent aches and pains associated with osteoarthritis can make it difficult to navigate work and life. As cartilage surrounding bone surfaces deteriorates, decreased mobility and movement result. According to The Arthritis Foundation, nearly 27 million Americans suffer from the disease. In fact, OA is the nation’s number one cause of disability.
If you have OA, it’s essential to adopt the right approach for managing and treating it. OA is caused by wear and tear on a joint—typically knees, hips, lower back, neck and shoulders—and, left untreated, it usually gets worse.
Nels Carlson, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation at Oregon Health Sciences University, suggests taking the following six-step approach:
Step 1: Verify that your condition is osteoarthritis.
Symptoms of OA include joint swelling, stiffness and pain. Oftentimes, it also leads to decreased range of motion in the joint. Many OA sufferers experience this pain upon waking in the morning and it frequently lasts for a few hours or longer. If you think you might have OA but it hasn’t been diagnosed, visit an osteoarthritis specialist for a physical exam and possible X-Rays or an MRI. Other conditions—including rheumatoid arthritis, immune system disorders and injuries—occasionally produce similar symptoms.