If it has become harder to bend over, grip small items like jars or scissors or put weight on your hips and knees, you may be suffering from osteoarthritis. And you wouldn’t be alone.
One in two Americans will get some form of OA in their lifetime and 27 million adults currently have it, according to the Center for Disease Control.
Osteoarthritis is basically the breaking down of the cartilage between the joints, said Kindyle L. Brennan, PhD, PT, Director of Clinical Research for the Bone and Joint Institute at Scott & White.
“It is diagnosed through patient symptoms (pain, fatigue and inflammation) and pain patterns,” Dr. Brennan said. “You can also do an X-ray and you’ll see some degeneration of the joint space.”
What causes osteoarthritis?
“Anything that adds [pressure] to the joint,” she said. “That could be due to obesity. If somebody’s overweight, it will increase load beyond tolerance.”
Overusing your joints, like doing vigorous exercise you’re not used to participating in, can also cause wear down the cartilage that helps keep the joints moving smoothly.
When should I see a doctor?
If you are unable to lessen or stop joint pain at home, then seeking a doctor’s help might the best option. A medical professional could offer prescription medication or other treatments that could help.
The Arthritis Foundation recommends getting medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Sudden swelling, warmth, redness along with pain in the joint
- Joint pain accompanied by a fever and/or rash
- Severe pain that prevents you from using the joint
How is OA treated?
“Conservative measures are the most popular, when it comes to treatment,” Dr. Brennan said, “which would include controlling weight, strengthening the muscles around the joint by exercising, and keeping the joint moving to increase lubrication of the joint.”
The CDC and the Arthritis Foundation have come up with a campaign that tells people with arthritis that Moving is Medicine. There are four parts to this campaign: weight management, self-management education, physical activity and injury prevention.
For more information about this campaign visit, http://www.fightarthritispain.org/.
Dr. Brennan agrees with the campaign’s philosophy and said that there’s a common misconception that you should stop moving if you’re having joint pain.
“It’s going to get worse if you don’t use it,” she said. “[The patient] needs to find a balance between overstressing the tissue and creating more wear and tear and not stressing it enough and allowing the tissue to atrophy more and become more painful.”
The doctor suggests moving your joints before you even get out of bed in the morning to help with lubrication and increased mobility.
“If [the patient] has back pain, then I have them move their knees side to side for maybe 20 repetitions to flush the fluid out of the joint before you load it,” she said.
And if you are having trouble moving on land, Dr. Brennan suggests getting in the water.
Do you have OA? What helps you manage your symptoms?