What is Osteoarthritis (OA)?
OA is the most common type of arthritis, affecting more than 27 million people in the US alone, usually over the age of 45.With life expectancy on the rise, it is important to care for your joints to maintain your quality of life for as long as possible
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a painful disease that mostly affects the cartilage in the joints. Cartilage is the spongy and slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones in a joint and acts as a shock absorber and lubricant for the joint. Healthy cartilage allows the bones to glide over each other smoothly.
However, as we age, our cartilage can start to thin and wear away, which allows the bone ends under the cartilage to wear away. The bone ends rubbing together can cause pain, swelling, loss of motion of the joint, and a lack of flexibility. Over time, it can produce significant disability if proper measures aren’t taken to care for the joints.
OA can be complicated by osteoporosis, a thinning of the bone, which can produce rough, pitted bone surfaces, and bone spurs. These can cause pain and further damage, especially if tendons and ligaments stretch over them when you are moving, causing the ‘snap, crackle and pop’ we associate with older, creaking joints.
OA can also be the result of injury from sports, or from vehicle-related accidents. Extreme sports when young can all add up to wear and tear over time, and eventually require joint replacement, such as knee replacement surgery. Middle-aged ‘weekend warriors’ are also prone to overdoing things when they finally do exercise.
A complicating factor of OA is weight. Being overweight puts a lot of pressure on all the joints, particularly hips and knees. As the bones begin to grind together, fragments of bone or cartilage can snap off and float inside the joint capsule, causing even more pain and damage.
People with OA often avoid working out because of their joint pain, but this will lead to even more damage, reduced motion, and pain. The pain is also caused by inflammation in the body, that is, persistent irritation. We are not yet sure what causes inflammation, but some people with OA have had success in relieving their symptoms though an anti-inflammatory diet of healthy foods, and lowering their stress levels.
If your aches and pains are becoming more frequent, visit your doctor for lab tests to determine whether or not they are symptoms of arthritis.