Osteoarthritis is caused by a loss of the cushioning surrounding the joints. In the body, the end of each bone is covered with a tissue called cartilage. This flexible tissue helps joints to function properly, allowing the bones to rotate past each other without pain. However, if the cartilage wears away, the bones in the joints will begin to rub directly on each other, causing significant swelling and pain.
Most cases of osteoarthritis are caused by advancing age; as individuals get older, the cartilage begins to break down. However, certain risk factors can also increase the chance of developing osteoarthritis. Injuries, such as those caused by sports and other physical activities, can lead to osteoarthritis in a localized area. Obesity can increase the chance of osteoarthritis by forcing the joints to carry a heavier load. Some occupations can also contribute to the development of osteoarthritis, especially those that require repetitive motion of the joints. Finally, some chronic health conditions make individuals more susceptible to osteoarthritis, including diabetes.
Treatment Options for Osteoarthritis
Pain medications are a common remedy for osteoarthritis. Individuals with mild cases of osteoarthritis can use over-the-counter medications to reduce the pain and swelling in their joints. For more serious cases, individuals may need stronger prescription drugs to alleviate their symptoms.
Individuals whose osteoarthritis is linked to obesity may be able to relieve their suffering by losing weight, reducing the pressure on weight-bearing joints. Healthy eating and regular exercise can help these individuals to lose weight and reduce their osteoarthritis. As an added benefit, exercise helps individual sufferers strengthen their joints, which can also reduce the pain of osteoarthritis.
Therapy is another option for relieving osteoarthritis pain. A physical therapist can develop a custom exercise plan that helps the patient ease their pain and participate in physical activities again. Occupational therapists can help sufferers find new ways to accomplish their work and daily tasks without adding extra stress to their joints.
However, these conservative treatment options do little to treat the pain of more severe osteoarthritis. In these cases, the patient may need cortisone shots directly to the affected joints. Lubrication injections can also improve the mobility in the joints. As a last resort, patients can also receive surgical treatment to reduce their symptoms. The knees and hips, for example, can be replaced with plastic or metal prostheses. However, these artificial joints will wear out over time as well.
Osteoarthritis is a painful condition that affects the joints. Although there is no way to completely cure the condition, many worthwhile solutions are available to help reduce the common symptoms and improve the mobility of those affected. Talking with a doctor is a great first step to finding a remedy for this chronic condition.