Osteoarthritis affects the entire joint, i.e. muscles, cartilage, bone and ligaments. Osteoarthritis can affect any joint in your body, but the most common ones are the big toe, fingers, hips and knees. It makes the cartilage that cushions your joints wear down, causing pain, stiffness and other problems.
Around 27 million people in the United States have osteoporosis. There are various factors that can increase your risk. Being overweight is the single biggest element, because you are putting an added pressure on your entire body, and especially on the lower limbs, as they struggle to carry and move your whole body weight.
Other risk factors include: age, genetics, prior injuries, using a joint too much and weak thigh muscles.
You may be lifting things that are too heavy for you; this can put extra stress on your body, even if only for a few minutes, but it is enough to get the problem started. Walking or running too much can affect your joints too, depending on the surface you travel on and how often you do it. Kneeling a lot can easily cause your knees to become weak.
Osteoarthritis symptoms may vary depending on the person and his or her overall health. It also depends on what joints become affected. This isn’t a sudden problem; it slowly happens over a long period of months or sometimes years. Stiffness and pain in your joints are the most typical symptoms. If you move, it gets worse.
You may find it painful to walk, open jars, climb stairs or stand for long periods. You might lose flexibility in affected joints. You could hear clicking noises or feel a grating sensation, as if bones are rubbing together.
There are a few tests that can be done to determine if you have osteoarthritis. As an example, an x-ray may show if you have changes, or a narrowing in your joint. Blood tests can be done to rule out particular forms of arthritis.
Treatment for osteoarthritis will vary according to where the problem is and its severity.
Treatment can include:
- A program to lose weight if you are obese.
- Seeing a dietitian that will help you improve your eating habits.
- A special, custom exercise program designed to help your specific needs.
- Support devices such as insoles, walking sticks and braces.
- Pain relief or non-steroidal medication.
- Joint replacement surgery.
Osteoarthritis should not be ignored. It is always best to catch it early and try to treat the problems before they become serious.