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Osteoarthritis

It is a degenerative type of arthritis, also called degenerative joint disease and is ranked as one of the most common types persons suffer from. It occurs as a result of cartilage breakdown or loss in a single or multiple joints.

The areas that are specifically affected are the hands, neck, spine, lower back, feet and weight bearing areas, with the main arthritic areas being the hips and knees. In many cases no firm cause is established, and this is called primary osteoarthritis. However, if a cause is determined, the condition is referred to as secondary osteoarthritis.

The disorder worsens over time with no confirmed cure. However, treatments can aid in relieving pain and maintaining activities. If you keenly follow through with treatments, some measure of control can be attained.

Symptoms
The symptoms which come on slowly are:
• Joint pains – Aching pains that are aggravated by exercising, other activities or excess weight.
• Stiffness – mostly on waking up or being inactive.
• Tenderness – especially when some pressure is applied.
• Loss of flexibility – limited movement.
• Grating sensation – You may hear or feel a grating sensation when the joint is in use.
Causes
Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage cushioning the ends of bones in your joints wears away. The smooth surface of the cartilage becomes rough, causing irritation. If the cartilage wears down completely, it is bone rubbing on bone which leads to pains.
In a number of instances there is no defined cause. It may be any number of things, for instance:
• Joint injury or stress
• The aging process
• Muscle weakness
• Obesity
• Heredity – it runs in the family.
Risk Factors
Factors that increase your risk of osteoarthritis include:
• Age – It typically occurs in older adults. People under 40 rarely experience this ailment. In men it tends to occur more before age 45, whereas in women it generally surfaces after attaining the age of 55. This is also the age at which women generally suffer from related problems like osteoporosis.
• Sex – Women are more likely to develop osteoarthritis, though it isn’t clear why.
• Bone deformities – If you are born with malformed joints or defective cartilage, your risk increases.
• Joint injuries – Those that occur when playing sports or from an accident, may increase the risk.
• Obesity – Excess body weight places more stress on your weight-bearing joints, such as your knees.
• Certain occupations – If your job includes tasks that place repetitive stress on a particular joint, that may predispose that joint to the disease.
• Other diseases – Having gout, rheumatoid arthritis, and other ailments can increase your risk.
Medication
Patients with mild symptoms may be treated only with pain relievers or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. However, other patients are treated with corticosteroids, which are injected directly into the joints to reduce inflammation, swelling and pain.
Lifestyle Changes
Exercise helps maintain joint and overall movement. Ask your health care provider to recommend an appropriate home exercise routine. Water exercises, such as swimming, are especially helpful.
Other lifestyle recommendations include:
• Applying heat and cold
• Eating a healthy, balanced diet
• Getting rest
• Losing weight if you are overweight.
Adjusting your work schedule/duties is highly beneficial in ensuring that unnecessary trauma isn’t caused to the joints.
Physical Therapy
Physical therapy like exercise usually does not aggravate the condition when performed at levels that do not cause joint pain. Exercise is helpful in several ways. First, it strengthens the muscular support around the joints. It also prevents the joints from “freezing up” and improves and maintains joint mobility. Finally, it helps with weight reduction and promotes endurance.
Applying local heat before and cold packs after exercise can help relieve pain and inflammation. Swimming is particularly well suited for those affected because it allows them to exercise with minimal impact stress to the joints. Other popular exercises include walking, stationary cycling, and light weight training.
Support Devices
Weakened joints can sometimes be supported by splints and braces. Some prevent the joint from moving; others allow some movement. A brace should only be used on the recommendation of your doctor or therapist. Misuse of a brace can cause joint damage, stiffness, and pain.
Splints, canes, walkers, and braces can be used on the advice of your therapist. These devices can be helpful in reducing stress on the joints. Additionally occupational therapists can assess the demands of daily activities and suggest other devices that may help people at work or home. Individual joints of the fingers can be supported by finger splints. To help ease hand symptoms, paraffin wax dips, warm water soaks, and nighttime cotton gloves can be utilised. With respect to the spine symptoms, depending on what areas are involved, they can improve with a neck collar, or a firm mattress.
Surgery
Severe cases of osteoarthritis might need surgery to replace or repair damaged joints. Surgical options include:
• Arthroscopic surgery to trim torn and damaged cartilage.
• Changing the alignment of a bone to relieve stress on the bone or joint (osteotomy).
• Surgical fusion of bones, usually in the spine (arthrodesis).
• Total or partial replacement of the damaged joint with an artificial joint.

Your feet mirror your general health . . . cherish them!

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