Often referred to as the “wear-and-tear disease,” osteoarthritis affects millions of people worldwide. The most common form of arthritis, it often impacts joints in the hands, knees, hips, and spine, although it can bother any joint. When left untreated, this condition is extremely painful and uncomfortable.
In today’s blog post, I want to offer a deeper dive into osteoarthritis and discuss how to best manage it.
What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that causes your joints to break down over time. It occurs when cartilage that is meant to protect your joints wears down, creating an uncomfortable or painful sensation. The joint doesn’t move smoothly as a healthy joint would. If the cartilage wears down completely, the bones rub against each other, causing even more pain and inflammation. Factors for developing osteoarthritis include older age (late 40’s and beyond), joint injuries, repeated use of the joint, obesity, and sex (women are more likely to develop the disease).
Osteoarthritis often rears its ugly head during or after movement, when the joint is being repeatedly used. The main symptoms include pain and stiffness in the affected areas. Other signs include tenderness, swelling, loss of flexibility, and an uncomfortable grating feeling of the joint. Symptoms usually develop slowly and worsen over time.
Tips to Manage Your Osteoarthritis
The Arthritis Program from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends five primary strategies for managing osteoarthritis, including:
- Learn self-management skills: Joining a pain-management education class is a great way to improve your quality of life.
- Be active: Experts recommend around 150 minutes of exercise per week for adults. Exercising regularly helps to delay the progression of osteoarthritis and also reduce pain.
- Protect your joints: Stay away from exercises that are hard on your joints, as joint injuries can accelerate this disease. Choose activities that are low-impact, like swimming, biking, and walking.
- Manage your weight: Extra weight puts more stress on your joints, making obesity a huge risk for osteoarthritis. Proper weight management helps to alleviate the pain and slow the progression of deterioration. Talk to your primary care physician (PCP) about appropriate options to help manage your osteoarthritis.
- Talk to your doctor: Be sure to discuss any emerging symptoms of osteoarthritis with your PCP. Together, you can develop a treatment plan to keep osteoarthritis pain at bay.
While your joint damage from osteoarthritis cannot be reversed, lifestyle changes and medication can help you manage the condition.