A Common Condition as we Age: Osteoarthritis

Know the signs and Effective Treatment Options

Ever wake up one day and have stiffness and pain in areas you never had before? In your 20s and 30s, most people feel great and have little signs or indications of discomfort throughout the muscles, tendons, joints and other areas of the body. So why is it that when we hit our 40s that all of the regular activities we always did are now causing pain and discomfort throughout the body? The culprit? A very common condition called Osteoarthritis.

Ignoring Symptom Onset

The start of the condition can come on very mild – which is why many people believe that they must have just “done something unusual” to the area of pain the day before to cause these symptoms, therefore letting it go on for quite some time prior to realizing it will become a chronic issue.

Feeling stiffness, pain, swelling or tenderness in or around various joints are not always a cause for concern, but these symptoms can become persistent and worsen over time to a much more intense sensation. This is why if you experience these symptoms you should definitely keep an eye on them.

Some key areas of pain to avoid ignoring, as they are common with the onset of osteoarthritis, are the hands, lower back, neck and weight-bearing joints such as the hips & knees. The knees are the most commonly affected joint in this regard, simply due to the fact of overuse in our daily lives, which is also why the condition often goes undiagnosed and many do not seek medical treatment – thinking it will go away on its own.

What is Osteoarthritis?

The condition is a type of inflammation and irritation that occurs when cartilage – the tissue that helps cushion the area between bones within the joint – wears away and becomes very thin or non-existent. When this area has no cushion left, it causes the bones within the joint to rub against each other – creating pain, inflammation, swelling and overall discomfort especially when moving or putting weight on the area.

Think of a lead pencil and paper. The lead is the cushion that allows the pencil to move and write on the paper. As the lead wears away or disappears, the plastic tip of the pencil begins to rub on the piece of paper – causing an uncomfortable feeling and sound, and no longer allows the pencil to write. The main difference being that the pencil can always be refilled with more lead, however, in regard to your joints – once the cartilage disappears it cannot be “refilled” meaning that the damage will be permanent.

Does Everyone Experience Osteoarthritis?

While the population at large is at risk for the condition, it is most commonly developed with increase of age. The most common affected are those over 45 with previous injuries to a joint area, or with improper alignment of the joints due to improper movement/wear and tear, or those who are overweight and have more pressure on their joints. That’s not to say that you cannot get this for other reasons such as family history, environmental factors, etc.

How to Stay Mobile & Manage Osteoarthritis with Treatment

While there is no full cure for the condition, the goal from a physician standpoint for those coping with osteoarthritis is to decrease pain/symptoms, and improve function & mobility. There are various methods to help relieve the associated pain and symptoms including: exercise and resting regimens, injections of anti-inflammatory medications to relieve irritation and discomfort, acupuncture, physical therapy, medication management and other surgical options.

While osteoarthritis may feel limiting to your daily activities, you are not alone and there are treatment plans available to help you keep living the life you want! Early diagnosis with imaging and a physician evaluation are key to help you relieve the irritation before it becomes intense, and following a plan of care can help you manage and understand your body much better!

Always remember – you can use the available tools you need to help your body feel its best!

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