Exercise and a healthy lifestyle are the hallmark remedies in the prevention of numerous conditions, including osteoarthritis. One of the known causes of osteoarthritis is undue stress on the joints, which can occur due to obesity. Being 10 pounds overweight can equate to 30 pounds of pressure on the knee joints. Hence, exercise is extremely beneficial in preventing that joint stress.
A complete medical history and physical exam are necessary to diagnose osteoarthritis once it sets in and rule out other similar conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.
Symptoms of osteoarthritis usually involve pain, swelling, brief morning stiffness due to breakdown of cartilage. Cartilage is located between the two adjoining bones and normally provides a smooth gliding surface for the bones. Without this surface and the accompanying fluid within a joint called synovial fluid, the two bones would rub against one another. Being overweight complicates this.
Osteoarthritis usually occurs in the elderly over 65 years. Most commonly, osteoarthritis affects the knee and hip joints, spine and hands.
It can typically be picked up during a physical exam depending on the joint involved. Typically, there is marked tenderness, swelling and decreased range of motion, joint deformities and muscle wasting. A crackling sound can be heard during examination called crepitus.
Other causes of the osteoarthritis can also be investigated such as joint injuries, genetic factors, medication, fractures and other medical conditions. X-rays of joints show bone swelling around the margins called osteophytes, cyst formation, sclerosis or hard tissue and joint space narrowing.
Exercise is best to prevent osteoarthritis, however once the disease process sets in and progresses it is best to consult a specialist and discuss the best options for long term management without further complicating the condition. With the help of physical therapy, the correct exercises can help to increase strength, endurance, balance and function. Good balance can prevent falls and fractures.
Other treatments to help manage osteoarthritis include pain medication, rest, walking aids, supportive footwear, application of heat, intraarticular corticosteroid injections, aqua therapy, weight loss, cartilage injections and joint replacement can be considered.
If you have symptoms consistent with osteoarthritis, make an appointment with Dr. Ramona Mihu, our Rheumatologist here at Advanced Orthopedics and Sports Medicine today.