What is osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a condition that results in joint damage. It’s caused by wear and tear of cartilage, the tissue protecting the ends of your bones and joints. This exposes the nerve endings in bones and results in OA pain.
OA is the most common form of arthritis. It’s degenerative, getting worse with age, but can also occur following injury.
Without treatment, chronic pain from OA can lead to complications and can significantly affect your quality of life.
Common symptoms of OA include:
- pain, tenderness, and stiffness in joints
- loss of flexibility
- bone spurs
- a grating sensation of bones rubbing together
Some things put you at a higher risk of getting osteoarthritis, including:
- Older age: Cartilage deteriorates naturally with age.
- Gender: Women are more likely to develop OA, though it isn’t understood why.
- Overweight or obese: Extra weight may put more stress on joints.
- Joint injury: Weak joints are more susceptible to OA.
- · Hypermobility: Having hypermobile joints or loose ligaments can increase risk.
- Genetics: Some people inherit the tendency to develop OA.
- Bone deformities: Being born with malformed bones or cartilage can increase your risk of OA.
- Certain jobs: Physically demanding jobs or jobs that require repetitive stress on joints can increase your chances of developing OA.
For many people, OA is a source of chronic pain that can be exhausting and debilitating. It can also lead to problems with anxiety and depression.
According to the
- Adults with arthritis are about 2.5 times more likely to experience a fall or injury.
- In 2015, 15 million U.S. adults said they had severe joint pain from arthritis.
- About 1 in 25 U.S. adults (ages 18 to 64) name arthritis as a cause of work limitations.
In addition to causing pain, there are a number of ways in which OA can impact your life.
Achy, tender joints interfere with restful, restorative sleep. Not getting a full night’s sleep can make your pain seem intensified.
Stiffness and limited range of motion can also keep you from getting comfortable in bed.
Many people miss multiple days of work per year because of chronic joint pain. Arthritis can also result in a decreased ability to perform normal everyday activities such as:
- household chores
- getting dressed
- exercise and other activities
In general, function can be improved with treatment. However, some people with OA may need assistance with simple day-to-day activities.
Pain and stiffness can decrease your desire to be active. You may stop wanting to participate in activities that used to bring you joy.
Arthritis may cause a decreased ability to exercise or even walk. The lack of activity doesn’t only limit your enjoyment of life — it can cause weight gain.
Extra weight may exacerbate OA symptoms, as well as lead to an increased risk of other complications, including:
Anxiety and depression
More than 40 percent of the study’s participants showed increased anxiety and depression as a result of OA symptoms.
Other complications that can arise from OA include:
There’s no cure for OA, so treatment aims to manage symptoms and improve joint function, flexibility, and balance. This helps prevent falls which can lead to fractures.
It’s important to control pain while increasing mobility and joint functioning.
Physical therapy can help increase mobility. Exercise is key to staying limber and maintaining your weight. But be careful not to overuse your joints and make symptoms worse. Take frequent breaks when exercising.
There are many medications available to relieve OA pain, including acetaminophen (Tylenol) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen.
Corticosteroid injections can be given directly into joints to help reduce swelling and relieve pain, and injections of viscosupplements may provide extra cushioning in joints. Depending on the severity of your OA, your doctor may suggest surgery to replace entire joints.
Alternative practices can help increase mobility, reduce stress, and improve your general outlook on life. These include:
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition. If left untreated, it’ll get worse with time. Although death from OA is rare, it’s a significant cause of disability among adults.
It’s important to talk to your doctor if OA is impacting your quality of life. Surgery to replace joints may be an option, as well as pain medication and lifestyle changes.
Whichever treatment you pursue, reducing your OA symptoms will improve your ability to get around and have a better quality of life.