Do you feel extreme pain and difficulty in moving your leg? Does your knee hurt when you burden it with a heavy load? Have you been lately experiencing swelling and stiffness in your knees? If you come across any of these symptoms, you are probably suffering from osteoarthritis.
Among all the other types of arthritis, osteoarthritis is the most common one. It happens when the protective and cushioning cartilages in your knees wear off or get damaged due to an injury. You may experience osteoarthritis even without any injuries. It may happen to you naturally over time as you age. Osteoarthritis majorly targets the joints present in your knees, spine, hands, and hips.
If you break the word ‘osteoarthritis’, you can automatically understand what this degenerative disorder aims at. Osteo means ‘bone’, and arthritis means inflammation and pain within joints. Therefore, osteoarthritis is the arthritis of your bones resulting in stiffness, pain and swelling at affected areas.
You may occasionally manage osteoarthritis, but cannot completely cure or reverse the damaged condition of your joints. To treat the disorder effectively without any surgical help, you should maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. In this way, you may improve joint function and slow down the progression of the disorder.
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What are the symptoms?
Generally, the possible signs of osteoarthritis develop at a slower pace, but heavily worsens with every passing minute. The symptoms that you are most likely to experience during osteoarthritis are:
- Stiffness- your joints become extremely stiff as you rest your body for a long time in a certain position. You will feel difficulty in stretching your legs, arms or back due to restricted rigidity.
- Pain- the joints in your body that are gravely affected will make you suffer from immense pain, every time your move. It is going to be a hurtful journey for you, no doubt!
- Inflammation- you may experience swelling near the areas of your affected joints.
- Loss of plasticity- you will feel restricted in moving your joint to its full extent of motion. Basically, you will gradually lose out on your flexibility.
- Bone spurs- you may experience small, hard lumps on your bones and joints that are affected.
- Tenderness- if you apply the least amount of pressure near or on your affected joint, you will feel the ache.
- Grating sensation- when you hear a cracking or popping sound on your knee joint during any movement, that’s a grating sensation.
How is osteoarthritis caused?
Cartilages are supportive structures, meant for cushioning your bones and joints to ease out movements and increase flexibility. It is a slippery, yet rigid tissue that helps in frictionless motions of your joints and bones. What happens when you damage your cartilage, either with normal aging or any injuries? The cushion is taken away and your bones come susceptible to fracture, from even minute knockdowns. This is exactly what osteoarthritis does to your body.
Osteoarthritis blindly targets the various cartilages supporting your joints, causing them to gradually breakdown or deteriorate. When the cartilage is damaged, your bones start experiencing friction and rub against one another on your every movement. This causes immense pain, stiffness, and inflammation in and around the affected joints.
In common tongues, you may have heard of something called the ‘wear and tear’ disorder. It is nothing but osteoarthritis, which damages your joints by repeated and gradual tearing of protective cartilages surrounding the joints. Apart from worsening cartilages, osteoarthritis can even deteriorate your entire joint. It can lead to irreversible changes in osteocytes (or bone cells) and damage other connective tissues holding you’re joint together. Thus, your muscle to bone attachment is hampered leading to swelling of joint linings.
What are the associated risk factors?
There are certain influences that can easily trigger osteoarthritis in your body, namely:
- Older age- you are more likely to experience osteoarthritis as you age.
- Obesity- when you are obese, you are basically carrying extra weight on your body that is unnecessary and harmful. Obesity can lead to a lot of health complications, one of them being osteoarthritis. Unwanted extra weight on your joints increases the risk of this disorder since fat tissues can cause inflammation very easily.
- Genetics- you may suffer from osteoarthritis due to factors like genetic predisposition. If you have this disease running in your family, the risk of getting it naturally hikes up for you.
- Deformities of bone- you are at more risk to develop osteoarthritis when you are bone with defective cartilage, or malformed bones, and joints.
- Joint injuries- if you are a sports person, you may come across frequent injuries in your bones. However, it may not have hinted you that repeated injuries in the same place can aggravate chances of osteoarthritis. Any sudden stress or regular injuries can easily harm your joints and surrounding cartilages.
- Metabolic disorder- when you have excess iron in your body (hemochromatosis) or diabetes, you become more prone to osteoarthritis.
How to treat?
For the worst conditions, doctors may suggest you go for surgical options such as:
- Joint replacement
- Cortisone injections
- Realignment of bones
- Lubrication injections
For initial or even moderate stages, you can still rely on a certain medication and home remedies to cure osteoarthritis.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDS- you may go for these over-the-counter medicines to relieve pain and inflammation. Commonly used NSAIDs are ibuprofen (Motrin IB and Advil), naproxen sodium like Aleve. Always remember to take these medications at suggested doses, or else you will end up severe consequences such as-
- Bleeding issues
- Stomach upset
- Kidney problems
- Cardiovascular disorders
- Liver damage
Talk to a doctor before opting NSAIDS.
- Acetaminophen- drugs like Tylenol can ease out moderate or mild pain during osteoarthritis. However, do not take more acetaminophen than recommended dose concentrations to avoid liver complications.
Exercise every day and stay fit. Go for regular walks, water aerobics or bicycling. Lose excess body weight by modifying your daily diet. Do yoga and other motion therapies to increase flexibility. You may even try out hot and cold compression, to relieve inflammation and pain instantly.