Osteoarthritis is a common term, but what exactly is it? Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that can affect any joint in the body. It happens when the cushioning cartilage between the joints becomes rough and breaks down, exposing the bone.
Without the cartilage between the joints, bones rub agains each other and can begin to grow outward, forming painful bone spurs. Osteoarthritis usually develops slowly and worsens over time, so it’s important to start treatment early to help you stay active, manage the pain and slow progression of the disease (measured in for stages: minor, mild, moderate and severe).
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting one in six Canadians each year. It is estimated that 85% of Canadians over the age of 70 will have osteoarthritis.
There is no one cause for osteoarthritis, but factors that include the likelihood of developing it include:
- Increasing age – especially being over 65
- Being overweight
- Previous injuries
- Family history of osteoarthritis
- Genetic defects in the cartilage
- Long-term, repetitive strain on a particular joint, such as a physically demanding profession or sport
- Gender – women are more likely than men to develop osteoarthritis
Physiotherapy can help reduce pain related to osteoarthritis.
Signs and symptoms
Osteoarthritis can strike in any joint in the body, causing pain, stiffness, swelling, and a grinding sensation called crepitus. It’s most common to develop in our major load-bearing joints: the knees, hips and spine.
Early indicators vary depending on the affected joint and how far it has progressed. Common symptoms include:
- Sore, tender, painful, aching joints
- Stiff joints after resting or first thing in the morning
- Decreased range of motion or inability to move
- Swelling or inflammation inside the joint
- Clicking, locking, grinding, creaking, crunching or grating feeling in the joint
- Weakness, muscle loss or unstable joints
Osteoarthritis can make it difficult to do every day tasks like walking up and down stars, getting in and out of cars, chopping food or other fine motor skills tasks, and it can make sleeping uncomfortable. Understandable, it can affect your mood and mental health.
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, it’s important to get help right away. According to the Survey of Living with Chronic Diseases in Canada, most people believe that osteoarthritis is a normal part of aging and will wait an average of three years before seeking a diagnosis.
But you don’t have to live like that; these symptoms can be managed with the help of a physiotherapist. Don’t let pain hold you back from doing the activities that you love. Live the life you were meant to.