Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common joint disorder often caused by age and experience, earning it the nickname “wear and tear arthritis.” In addition to being the most common form of arthritis, it is also the leading cause of chronic disability in the U.S. An estimated 27 million Americans age 25 and older suffer from osteoarthritis.
It is characterized by pain, stiffness, locking, tenderness, loss of movement, or a grating sensation in the joints. Although osteoarthritis can affect any joint, it is most common in hands/fingers, neck, hips, and the lower back. The onset is usually gradual and symptoms can range from minor to severe. As it is a degenerative disease, it does progress and worsen for many people (especially without treatment), but most people with osteoarthritis continue to lead happy, active lives.
What are the Causes of Osteoarthritis?
The exact causes of OA aren’t entirely known, but physicians have identified several trends and factors that can put someone at risk for developing osteoarthritis.
Although people of all ages can develop OA, it appears to become more common with age. Also, once over the age of 45, more women than men are affected by OA. Other risk factors include obesity (additional weight puts stress on joints), joint injury or exhaustion (for example, having an occupation that requires you to excessively use your joints) and heredity. People whose parents or grandparents suffer from osteoarthritis are more likely to develop it themselves.
How Is Osteoarthritis Treated?
While there is no “cure” for osteoarthritis, there are beneficial treatments that many people find successful. There are several medications that can help with pain management, but often the best approach is a comprehensive one. Combining medication with physical or occupational therapy and lifestyle changes (such as an improved diet and increased physical activity) can yield long term, tangible results. In some advanced cases, joint replacement surgery or resurfacing may be needed.
How Can I Prevent Osteoarthritis?
Taking care of oneself is the best way to prevent any illness, including joint disorders. Staying active and eating a nutritious diet will keep you at a healthy weight and prevent your joints from becoming stiff, inflexible, or weak. In addition, maintaining good posture is also shown to keep stress off your joints and keep your bones properly aligned. It is also recommended that you manage your stress and anxiety to boost your immune system and promote overall health and wellness.
If you believe you have beginning symptoms of osteoarthritis, visit your physician and begin to address symptoms early. Remember, even small changes and adjustments to your lifestyle can make a big difference.