Osteoarthritis (OA), also known as degenerative joint disease, is the most common form of arthritis, and is common in the elderly. It is caused by the wearing down of cartilage as we age, thereby making it difficult to move. During this process, the bones may break or chip creating spurs. Eventually the bones will rub against one another and cause joint damage and more pain. Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis is not an autoimmune disease; it does not attack the entire body. Osteoarthritis (OA) tends to affect the larger weight bearing joints (shoulders, knees, hips, spine) and small joints of the hands. This condition is diagnosed during a physician’s exam and can be seen on various X ray, MRI, or CT scans . Labs are not helpful in diagnosing OA but may be used to rule out other forms of arthritis.
Signs and symptoms include stiffness that tends to improve with movement, clicking and achy joints, swelling of the joints, and increased pain after activity. Although there is no cure for osteoarthritis, the treatment plan is to manage the symptoms, improve joint mobility and flexibility, maintain a healthy weight, and continue to exercise as tolerated. Additional treatments include NSAIDs, corticosteroids, massages, the use of hot or cold compresses, and the use of assisted devices (walker or cane). When the joint pain becomes unbearable, please seek a referral to an orthopedic surgeon to discuss the possibility of surgery to repair or replace the joints. Please follow up with your general practitioner, physician, or pain management specialist for standardized treatment.
National Institute of Aging. (2017). Osteoarthritis. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/osteoarthritis.
Tefi. (2019). Osteoarthritis, destruction of cartilage. Healthy joint and unhealthy joint anatomy. [Illustration].