What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a disease that causes the breakdown of the cartilage in joints. Cartilage is the joint’s cushion. It covers the ends of bones and allows free movement. If it becomes rough, frays, or wears away, it causes bones to grind against each other. As a result, the joint becomes irritated and inflamed. Sometimes the irritation causes abnormal bone growths, called spurs, which increase swelling. The disease normally affects the feet, knees, lower back, hips, and fingers.
The symptoms of osteoarthritis include:
- Mild to severe pain in a joint, especially after overuse or long periods of inactivity, such as sitting for a long time
- Creaking or grating sound in the joint
- Swelling, stiffness, limited movement of the joint
- Weakness in muscles around the sore joint from lack of use
- Deformity of the joint
Low back (lumbar spine) osteoarthritis pain is another main symptom. As with other joint involvement in arthritis, lower back pain is typically most pronounced in the morning and worsens again later in the day. Pain is decreased during the day as the person’s normal movements stir the fluid lubricant of the joints. Lower back pain commonly may radiate (“referred pain”) to the pelvis, buttocks, or thighs, and sometimes to the groin. Nerve irritation from a herniated disc or from bone spurs can cause weakness, numbness, tingling, and/or pain in the legs that often radiates to one foot.
Treatment for osteoarthritis
Although no one yet knows how to prevent osteoarthritis, we can treat symptoms by following these guidelines:
Keep your joints in good working order. Stay fit. Do any exercises recommended by your health care provider or physical therapist for posture, muscle strength, and joint mobility. Daily moderate exercise is much better for you joints than occasional strenuous exercise. Walk a little each day if you can. Be sure to wear comfortable, well-cushioned walking shoes. Otherwise, you can exercise while sitting down or go swimming. The water in a warm swimming pool can help support your weight while you exercise, and the warmth helps improve joint movement.
- Protect your joints by doing warm-up exercises before strenuous activity.
- Use a kneepad to protect your knees when you are kneeling.
- Take the medicine your health care provider recommends for controlling your osteoarthritis.
- Keep your body healthy by eating a healthy, varied, low-fat diet.
- Follow your health care provider’s recommendations for weight control.
- Contact your local chapter of the Arthritis Foundation