Osteoarthritis facts •Osteoarthritis is a joint inflammation that results from cartilage degeneration.

Osteoarthritis facts
•Osteoarthritis is a joint inflammation that
results from cartilage degeneration.
•Osteoarthritis can be caused by aging,
heredity, and injury from trauma or disease.
•The most common symptom of osteoarthritis
is pain in the affected joint(s) after repetitive
•There is no blood test for the diagnosis of
•The goal of treatment in osteoarthritis is to
reduce joint pain and inflammation while
improving and maintaining joint function.
What is osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a form of arthritis that features the
breakdown and eventual loss of the cartilage of one or more
joints. Cartilage is a protein substance that serves as a
"cushion" between the bones of the joints
Primary osteoarthritis,
osteoarthritis not resulting from
injury or disease, is mostly a
result of natural aging of the
joint. With aging, the water
content of the cartilage
increases, and the protein
makeup of cartilage
Secondary osteoarthritis is a form of
osteoarthritis that is caused by another
disease or condition. include obesity,
repeated trauma or surgery to the joint
structures, abnormal joints at birth
(congenital abnormalities), gout, diabetes,
and other hormone disorders.
Osteoarthritis: Symptoms
The symptoms of osteoarthritis tend to develop slowly. You may notice
pain or soreness when you move certain joints or when you've been
inactive for a prolonged period. The affected joints may also be stiff or
creaky. Typically, osteoarthritis leads to morning stiffness that resolves
in 30 minutes. When osteoarthritis affects the hands, some people
develop bony enlargements in the fingers, which may or may not cause
Osteoarthritis: Where Does It Hurt?
In most cases, osteoarthritis develops in the weight-bearing
joints of the knees, hips, or spine. It's also common in the
fingers, thumb, neck, and big toe. Other joints are usually not
affected, unless an injury is involved.
Osteoarthritis: What Causes It?
Every joint comes with a natural shock absorber in the form of cartilage.
This firm, rubbery material cushions the ends of the bones and reduces
friction in healthy joints. As we age, joints become stiffer and cartilage is
more vulnerable to wear and tear. At the same time, repetitive use of
the joints over the years irritates the cartilage. If it deteriorates enough,
bone rubs against bone, causing pain and reducing range of motion.
Risk Factors You Can't Control
One of the major risk factors for osteoarthritis is something none of us
can control – getting older. Gender also plays a role. Over age 50, more
women than men develop osteoarthritis. In most cases, the condition
results from normal wear and tear over the years. But some people
have a genetic defect or joint abnormality that makes them more
Risk Factors You Can Control
Because injured joints are more vulnerable to osteoarthritis, doing
anything that damages the joints can raise your risk. This includes sports
that have a high rate of injury and jobs that require repetitive motion,
such as bending the knees to install flooring. Obesity is another risk
factor – it has been linked specifically to osteoarthritis of the knees and
Impact on Daily Life
Osteoarthritis affects each person differently. Some people have few
symptoms despite the deterioration of their joints. Others experience
pain and stiffness that may interfere with daily activities. If bony knobs
develop in the small joints of the fingers, tasks such as buttoning a shirt
can become difficult. Osteoarthritis of the knees or hips can lead to a
limp. And osteoarthritis of the spine can cause debilitating pain and/or
Diagnosing Osteoarthritis
To help your doctor make an accurate diagnosis, you'll need to describe
your symptoms in detail, including the location and frequency of any
pain. Your doctor will examine the affected joints and may order X-rays
or other imaging studies to see how much damage there is, and to rule
out other joint conditions. In many cases, blood tests are used to rule
out other forms of arthritis.
Long-Term Complications
Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis does not affect the body's
organs or cause illness. But it can lead to deformities that take a toll on
mobility. Severe loss of cartilage in the knee joints can cause the knees
to curve out, creating a bow-legged appearance (shown on the left).
Bony spurs along the spine (shown on the right) can irritate nerves,
leading to pain, numbness, or tingling in some parts of the body.
Treatment: Physical Therapy
There is no treatment to stop the erosion of cartilage in the joints, but
there are ways to improve joint function. One of these is physical
therapy to increase flexibility and strengthen the muscles around the
affected joints. The therapist may also apply hot or cold therapies such
as compresses to relieve pain.
Supportive Devices
Supportive devices, such as finger splints or
knee braces, can reduce stress on the joints
and ease pain. If walking is difficult, canes,
crutches, or walkers may be helpful. People
with osteoarthritis of the spine may benefit
from switching to a firmer mattress and
wearing a back brace or neck collar.
Medication for OA
When osteoarthritis flares up, many patients
find relief with over-the-counter pain and antiinflammatory medication, such as aspirin,
ibuprofen, or acetaminophen. Pain-relieving
creams or sprays can also help when applied
directly to the sore area. If pain persists
despite the use of pills or creams, your doctor
may suggest an injection of steroids or
hyaluronans directly into the joint.
Overall studies suggest no benefits of
glucosamine and chondroitin – supplements
available at pharmacies and health food stores
touted for relieving pain and stiffness for
people with osteoarthritis. Check with your
doctor before using chondroitin, especially if
you take blood-thinners.
Osteoarthritis and Weight
If you're overweight, one of the most effective ways to relieve pain in
the knee or hip joints is to shed a few pounds. Even modest weight loss
has been shown to reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis by easing the
strain on weight-bearing joints. Losing weight not only cuts down on
pain, but may also reduce long-term joint damage.
Osteoarthritis and Exercise
People with osteoarthritis may avoid exercise out of concern that it will
cause pain. But low-impact activities such as swimming, walking, or
bicycling can improve mobility and increase strength. Training with light
weights can help by strengthening the muscles that surround your
joints. For example, strengthening the quadriceps can reduce pain in the
knees. Ask your doctor or physical therapist which exercises are best for
Is Surgery for You?
If osteoarthritis interferes significantly with everyday life and the
symptoms don't improve with physical therapy or medication, joint
replacement surgery is an option. This procedure is used on those with
severe OA and replaces a damaged joint with an artificial one. The knee
and hip are the joints that are replaced most often.
Preventing Osteoarthritis
The most important thing you can do to ward off osteoarthritis is keep
your weight in check. Over the years, extra weight puts stress on the
joints and may even alter the normal joint structure. Preventing injuries
is also important. Take precautions to avoid repetitive motion injuries on
the job. If you play a sport, use proper equipment and observe safety
Hamstring Stretch
Warm up with a five-minute walk. Then, stretch. Lie down. Loop a bed
sheet around your right foot. Use sheet to help pull and stretch leg up.
Hold for 20 seconds. Repeat twice, then switch legs. Stretching is one of
three important types of exercises for knee OA. Range of motion or
stretching exercises keep you limber. Strengthening exercises build
muscle strength to stabilize weak joints. Aerobic exercises, like walking,
help lung and heart fitness.
Calf Stretch
Stretching exercises loosen muscles, improve flexibility, and help
prevent pain and injury.
Use a chair for balance. Bend your right leg. Step back with left leg,
slowly straightening it behind you. Press left heel towards the floor. Feel
the stretch in your back leg.
For more of a stretch: Lean forward, bending the right knee deeper.
Don't let the right knee go past your toes. Hold for 20 seconds. Do twice,
then switch legs.
Straight Leg Raise
To try this leg strengthening move, lie on the
floor. Prop your back up on your elbows. Bend
your left knee, keeping foot on floor. Keep the
right leg straight, toes pointed up. Tighten
thigh muscles of your right leg. Slowly and
smoothly use your thigh muscles -- not your
back -- to raise your leg.
Pause, as seen above, for five seconds. With
thigh still tight, slowly lower leg to ground.
Relax. Repeat 10 times. Rest. Do another 10;
then switch legs.
Quad Set
Is the straight leg raise too tough? Do quad
sets instead. With these you don't raise your
leg. Simply tighten the thigh muscles, also
called the quadriceps, of one leg at a time.
Start by lying on the floor. Keep both legs on
ground, relaxed. Flex and hold left leg tense for
five seconds, as seen in right-hand photo.
Relax. Do two sets of 10. Then, switch to other
Seated Hip March
This move can strengthen hips and thigh
muscles to help with daily activities, such as
walking or rising from a chair.
Sit up straight in chair. Slightly kick back your
left foot but keep toes on the floor. Lift your
right foot off the floor, keeping knee bent. Hold
right leg in the air five seconds. Slowly lower
your foot to the ground. Repeat 10 times. Rest
and do another 10, then switch legs. Too hard?
Use your hands to help raise your leg.
Pillow Squeeze
This move helps strengthen the inside of your
legs to help support your knee. Lie on your
back, both knees bent. Place a pillow between
Squeeze knees together, squishing pillow
between them. Hold for five seconds. Relax.
Repeat 10 times. Rest, then do another set of
Heel Raise
Hold back of chair for support. Stand straight
and tall. Lift heels off ground and rise up on
toes of both feet. Hold for five seconds. Slowly
lower both heels to ground. Repeat 10 times.
Rest. Do another 10.
Too hard? Do the same exercise, only sitting in
a chair.
Side Leg Raise
Hold back of chair for balance. Place your
weight on left leg. Lift right leg out to the side.
Keep right leg straight and outer leg muscles
tensed. Don't slouch. Lower right leg and relax.
Repeat 10 times. Rest. Do another 10, then
repeat with left leg.
Too hard? Increase leg height over time. After
a few workouts, you'll be able to raise your leg
Sit to Stand
Practice this move to make standing easier.
Place two pillows on chair. Sit on top, with your
back straight, feet flat on floor (see left). Use
your leg muscles to slowly and smoothly stand
up tall. Then, slowly lower yourself back down
to sitting. Be sure your bent knees don't move
forward of your toes. Try with arms crossed
(see left) or loose to your side.
Too hard? Add pillows or use a chair with
armrests and help push up with your arms.
One Leg Balance
Your goal is to do this hands-free. Steady
yourself on a chair, if needed. First, shift your
body weight to one leg but do not lock your
knee straight. Slowly raise the other foot off
the ground, balancing on your standing leg.
Hold for 20 seconds. Lower raised foot to the
ground. Do twice, then switch legs. This move
helps when getting out of cars or bending.
Too easy? Balance for a longer time. Or try
with your eyes closed.
Step Ups
This move helps strengthen your legs for
climbing stairs. Face a stable step, both feet on
the ground. Step up with your left foot. Follow
with your right foot. Stand on top, tall and with
both feet flat. Climb down in reverse: right foot
down first, then left. Do 10 times. Rest, then
repeat another 10 times. Then repeat, starting
with right leg first. Too hard? Use a railing,
wall, or lamppost for balance. Or try a lower
With stiff or sore knees, walking may not seem
like a great idea. But it's one of the best
exercises for knee arthritis. It can reduce joint
pain, strengthen leg muscles, and improve
flexibility -- and it's good for your heart. The
best part -- no gym membership needed.
Good form is key: Look forward, walk tall. Keep
arms and legs moving, relaxed. Always ask your
doctor before starting exercise when you have
Low-Impact Activities
Being active may also help you lose weight,
which takes pressure off joints. Other exercises
that are easy on the knees: biking, swimming,
and water aerobics. Water exercise takes
weight off painful joints. Many community and
hospital wellness centers, YMCAs, and pools
offer classes for people with arthritis.
Don't give up favorite activities, like golf. Talk
to your doctor or physical therapist about
modifying painful moves.
How Much Exercise?
Start with a little. If you can do it without pain,
do more next time. Aim for 30 minutes a day.
Over time you'll build your leg muscles to
support your knee and increase flexibility.
Some muscle soreness is normal, but hurting
or swollen joints need rest. Take a break and
ask your doctor's advice. Ice painful joints and
take acetaminophen or an anti-inflammatory
pain reliever, like ibuprofen or naproxen, if
your doctor says it's OK.