Facts: Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common forms of arthritis. It involves breakdown of joint cartilage, the cushioning between the ends of the bones. Its breakdown causes bones to rub against each other, resulting in joint stiffness, pain and loss of movement. Risk factors of developing OA include age, obesity, injury and genetics. There are two types of osteoarthritis, primary and secondary. Primary osteoarthritis occurs with aging. The older you are, the more likely it is to develop. Its cause is unknown. In contrast, secondary osteoarthritis has a cause that is injury, heredity, or obesity. The most common signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis are:
- Joint soreness after periods of overuse or inactivity.
- Stiffness after periods of rest that goes away quickly when activity resumes.
- Morning stiffness
- Joint pain worse in the evening or at the end of the day
- Deterioration of coordination, posture and walking due to pain and stiffness.
If OA is in the hips, you may experience:
- Pain in groin, inner thigh and buttock
- Referred pain in knee and side of thigh
- Limping when walking
If OA is in the knees, you may experience:
- Pain when moving the knee
- Grating or catching when moving the knee
- Pain when walking up and down stairs or getting up from a chair
- Pain that prevents you from exercising your leg
- Weakened large thigh muscles
If OA is in the fingers, you may experience:
- Pain and swelling of the finger joints
- Bony growth spurs at the joint at the end of the finger, called Heberden’s nodes, or at the middle joint, called Bouchard’s nodes.
- Redness, tenderness and swelling in the affected joints, especially early on when the nodes are forming
- Enlarged joints
- Difficulty with pinching movements, such as picking an item up from a table or grasping a pencil or pen.
If OA is in the feet, you may experience:
- Pain and tenderness in the large joint at the base of the big toe
- Pain when wearing tight shoes or high heels
If OA is in the spine, you may experience:
- A breakdown of the spinal discs resulting in bony overgrowth
- Stiffness and pain in the neck and lower back
- Pressure on the nerves in the spinal cord (pinched nerves)
- Pain in the neck, shoulder, arm, lower back and legs
- Weakness or numbness in arms and legs due to pinched nerves result in inflammation.
Osteoarthritis most commonly occurs in the weight-bearing joints of the hips, knees and lower back. It also affects the neck, small finger joints, the base of the thumb and the big toe. OA rarely affects other joints except when injury or stress is involved. Early diagnosis and treatment is the key to controlling osteoarthritis. It is important that you take an active role in the treatment of your OA and in prevention of additional joint damage. There are even steps you can take to lower your risk for developing OA at all. The most important thing you can do if you suspect you have any form of arthritis is to get a proper diagnosis and begin early, aggressive treatment. There are several other conditions that are similar to OA, including rheumatoid arthritis, that have different treatment plans. It is important that you are being treated properly for your arthritis. Treatment options include:
- Topical analgesics – creams rubbed on the painful area that can be used with medications taken by mouth to relieve pain.
- Injectable glucocorticoids – injected into the joint for fast, targeted pain relief. Can only be given in the same joint three or four times a year.
- Viscosupplements – a series of injections into the joint of hylauronic acid, that is found in joint fluid relieves pain and allows for smoother movement. Examples are Synvisc and Hyalgan, Euflexa and Supatz.