Osteoarthritis is one of the most common causes of joint pain, especially pain in the knee, hip, shoulder, neck and individual vertebrae along the spine.
Osteoarthritis is one of the most common causes of joint pain, especially pain in the knee, hip, shoulder, neck and individual vertebrae along the spine. This progressive, degenerative condition robs millions of people of their quality of life every year. And the number affected by this disease is growing. In fact, by 2030, it’s expected that more than 67 million Americans will have been diagnosed with some form of Osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis is typically accompanied by stiffness, tenderness and weakness in the affected joints. As it progresses, Osteoarthritis makes it increasingly difficult for people to use their joints. You may not be surprised to learn Osteoarthritis in the joints is the leading cause of disability for people over 50.
Osteoarthritis versus Rheumatoid Arthritis
While the symptoms of Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis both include cartilage loss, these conditions have several distinct differences.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease that results in the thickening and inflammation of the affected joint. Chronic inflammation causes the cartilage loss that defines arthritis. Rheumatoid Arthritis only accounts for about 15 percent of all diagnosed arthritis cases.
Osteoarthritis, by far, accounts for the vast majority of arthritis diagnosis, and this progressive condition can affect anyone. In fact, if you are over 50, it’s highly likely your joints are developing symptoms of Osteoarthritis, even if you don’t feel any symptoms yet.
Osteoarthritis may be caused either by injury or simple wear and tear over time. As we use our joints, the cartilage that cushions our joints is worn down, causing our bones to scrape and rub. As more cartilage is worn away, it may be replaced by bone spurs or irregular cartilage growth. Both of these developments can lead to significant pain.
Risk factors for Osteoarthritis include:
TIP: Dropping just a few pounds can significantly reduce the risk of developing Osteoarthritis. This is because excess weight adds unnecessary stress to our joints, leading to increased pressure. This increased pressure causes cartilage to wear away faster, exacerbating Osteoarthritis symptoms.
While the cause of Osteoarthritis in various parts of the body is similar, the disease affects different joints in distinct ways. Possible treatments vary as well. Click these links for a closer look at how Osteoarthritis affects these different areas of the body :
Cold Weather and Joint Pain: Is There a Connection?
How Osteoarthritis progresses
Have you ever heard or felt your back, hip, knee or neck joints popping or crunching? This is one of the first noticeable symptoms of Osteoarthritis. The popping, known as crepitus, is a significant indicator that cartilage in that joint has worn away.
Unfortunately, because we’re conditioned to think of these symptoms as just a sign of “getting older,” we tend to ignore them, as well as any relatively minor aches or pains, until they become debilitating. Here’s a standard progression of symptoms, so you can know what to look for:
Low level aches come and go, accentuated by occasional sharp flare-ups.
Bending, kneeling, squatting, walking or climbing stairs increases the pain and frequency of the flare-ups.
Popping or crunching (crepitus)
Pain or stiffness keeps you from doing something you enjoy.
Traditional Osteoarthritis treatments
People experiencing early Osteoarthritis symptoms sometimes believe, “if I rest it, it will get better.” While rest may offer temporary relief, it won’t heal the condition, which will continue to progress, leading to more pain and disease. The same can be said for treating the pain from Osteoarthritis with over-the-counter pain relievers, like acetaminophen (painkiller) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen.
Intra-articular (IA) injections offer another traditional non-surgical treatment for Osteoarthritis pain in the back, hips, knees or other joints. IA injections use corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and provide pain relief in the affected joint. This is typically a two-step process:
Synovial (joint) fluid is aspirated to increase pain relief and, if necessary, allow for laboratory evaluation
A corticosteroid is injected into the affected joint
Prognosis for patients receiving IA injections is good. Most patients report significant pain relief in about a week after the injection. This pain relief typically lasts up to six weeks, though some patients report a much longer period of pain relief. In fact, many patients receiving IA for hip pain reported significant pain relief for over three months.
Over time, as damage continues to build up, the condition becomes debilitating. When the disease has progressed to a certain point, many physicians will suggest joint replacement surgery. While this procedure has become increasingly common, it is still a major surgical procedure with risks including:
Pain after surgery
Extended recovery time
Painful and extensive physical therapy
Up to a year before regaining full function
Blood clots, infection and other standard surgical risks
Possible adverse reaction to anesthesia
Surgery may not relieve the pain
If you are experiencing any of the progressive symptoms of degenerative Osteoarthritis, do not wait to seek treatment. The more you delay, the worse the damage can become. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Skaliy, please click here to make appointment.
Better options to heal Osteoarthritis
Atlanta Spine Specialists have been offering regenerative medicine to help patients with Osteoarthritis. Not all patients are candidates for this treatment but we are happy to provide you with a consultation to see if you are a candidate for this procedure. Please call our office to schedule your consultation today.
At Atlanta Spine Specialist we are dedicated to helping people live a full life.
Please call our office to learn more about these options (770) 844-3242.