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The Facts Put Simply


Learn About Osteoarthritis
and Equip
Yourself to
Fight Back!

Subject matter Quick Links for this page…

1) What Is Osteoarthritis?
2) Osteoarthritis Facts
3) Who is at risk to get Osteoarthritis?
4) Causes of Osteoarthritis
5) Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
6) What can you do to prevent Osteoarthritis?
7) What can you do to combat Osteoarthritis?

What Is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is the most common of the numerous joint disorders.

It is also referred to as Hypertrophic osteoarthritis; Osteoarthrosis; Degenerative joint disease; DJD; OA; or Arthritis – osteoarthritis.

Specifically; this chronic disease causes the cushioning (cartilage) between the bone joints to wear away, leading to pain and stiffness. It can also cause new pieces of bone, called bone spurs, to grow around the joints.

In the examples below the cartilage that cushions the bones of the hip and knee joints starts to erode, eventually allowing the bones to grind or rub together and causing hip pain and stiffness.

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Osteoarthritis (OA) facts:

• It’s the most common type of arthritis affecting about 16 million Americans
• Middle-aged and older people are most prone to it
• This is a noninflammatory degenerative joint disease characterized by the breakdown of the joint's cartilage
• You may feel it in any of your joints, but it is most common in your hip, knee or finger joints

Categories of Osteoarthritis (OA):

OA can be classified as Primary or Secondary:

Primary OA occurs when neither "a type of injury" or "other factor" can be identified as the underlying cause of the condition.

Secondary OA results from another disease or underlying condition. The most common causes of secondary OA are metabolic conditions, such as acromegaly, problems with anatomy (for example, being bow-legged), injury, or inflammatory disorders like septic arthritis.

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Who is at risk to get Osteoarthritis?

• The symptoms usually appear in middle age but are present in almost everyone by the age of 70
• Before the age of 55, the condition occurs equally in both sexes. However, after 55 it is more common in women.

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Causes of Osteoarthritis

• Most of the time, the cause of OA is unknown
• It is primarily related to aging; however, metabolic, genetic, chemical, and mechanical factors can play a role in its development

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Symptoms of Osteoarthritis:

• As the cartilage wears away you will usually experience the gradual and subtle onset of deep aching joint pain that is… o worse after exercise or weight bearing
o often relieved by rest
• redness, numbness and/or swelling of a joint
• limited movement and reduced range of motion
• morning stiffness when getting out of bed
• grating of the joint when you move
• joint pain in inclement weather
• Heberden’s nodes can often result

Heberden's Nodes are hard growths (caused by bone spurs) which most often develop in the joints closest to the tips of the fingers or toes. They start to develop in middle age and begin with a swelling of the affected joints along with the painful onset of redness, numbness, followed by stiffness. When the inflammation subsides the patient is left with a permanent bony outgrowth that may skew the joint sideways.
• Heberden's nodes are more common in women than in men
• There appears to be a genetic (hereditary) component that defines a persons predisposition to this condition.

Bouchard's nodes are similar bony growths and may also be present; but they affect the middle joints of the fingers.

*Note: In some cases Osteoarthritis may present no symptoms.

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What can you do to prevent Osteoarthritis?

While the causes of OA are unknown in many cases, the common wisdom is that you are more likely to develop it if you repetitively injure a joint or if you over-use a joint while it’s injured and in healing mode.

When you injure a joint you need to give it what it needs to get healthy...

1)Time off. Rest it and allow it time to heal.
2) The proper nutritional supplementation to aid in joint repair.
You should not over work a damaged or sore joint nor should you engage in excessive repetitive motions which stress joints.

Being over weight also increases the risk for developing Osteoarthritis in the knees, and possibly in the hips and hands. You should endevour to maintiain a healthy weight.

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What can you do to combat Osteoarthritis?

Is it possible to stop the destruction of cartilage and begin the process of repairing the damage that has been done?... The answer is "yes."
While the degree of relief varies depending on the severity of your joint condition, there are some very promising avenues to ease pain and even repair damaged cartilage.

Combating Osteoarthritis most often involves a multi pronged treatment approach based on your specific case that may or may not include...

Medication : (click this link to learn more)
Many drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter medications, are used to treat Osteoarthritis. The most common type of medication used to treat osteoarthritis are nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) but there are a number of others not limited to COX-2 inhibitors and steroids.

Natural Supplementation: (click this link to learn more)
As our bodies age they lose some of their natural ability to produce the nutrients required to repair joint injuries and maintain healthy joints. Natural supplements offer many short term and long term benefits that have proven to be an invaluable addition to any joint health plan.

Diet: (click this link to learn more)
Much research is continuing into the links between what you eat and your Osteoarthritis. From the research evidence so far, we recommend that you should:
• Pay close attention to portion size at every meal and only eat when you are hungry
• Drink plenty of water and avoid beverages that are high in caffeine and/or sugar
• Eat less sugar and fat, especially saturated fat, and try to use olive oil in your diet
• Eat more fruit and vegetables, especially brightly coloured varieties
• Eat plenty of calcium and iron rich foods

Exercise & Stretching: (click this link to learn more)
A regular exercise and stretching regimen is important to keep the body moving and flexible. It helps to enable movement through the reduction of the related pain, maintain and increase range of motion, reduce fatigue, and it helps you look and feel better.

Rest is a very important and integral component of any Joint pain management plan. Getting from 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night and taking naps during the day will give your joints time to recover from damage and may even help reduce the number of flair-up recurrances.

Apply Heat or Cold:
Use of heat or cold over joints may provide short-term relief from pain and stiffness.

Pacing Activities:
Pacing helps protect your joints by alternating periods of activity with periods of rest so that your joints don't tire from the stress of repeated tasks.

Massage and/or Physical Therapy:
Massage treatments and Physical Therapy have been proven to increase circulation and decrease tension throughout the body. Aside from feeling great, the beneficial effects of a physical manipulation will help you relax, improve your mental fitness and help you forget about your joint troubles for awhile. There are certified therapists that specialize in Arthritic pain relief therapies who can visit you on a regular basis.

Splints and braces can sometimes support weakened joints. Some prevent the joint from moving; while others allow some movement. You should use a brace only when your doctor or therapist recommends one. The incorrect use of a brace can cause joint damage, stiffness, and pain.

Maintain Good Posture:
When standing, keep your legs shoulder width apart for balance and optimum support. Keep your shoulders back to reduce stress in your lower back. When seated, make use of a small pillow to support your lower back and keep your knees and hips at a 90 degree angle whenever possible.

Try not to stay seated for long periods of time. If you must remain in one place for more than 30 minutes at a time, be sure to shift your weight around and stretch to keep your joints from becoming stiff and sore.

Proactive Joint Protection:
Protect your joints by learning to use them in ways that:

• load weight to your larger healthy joints before loading to your smaller more vulnerable joints
• avoid using your damaged, sore and/or weak joints as much as possible.

In practice this means you should lift with your legs before you use your back, lift at your shoulders before you lift at your elbows, push with you elbows before pushing with your wrists, etc.

The second way to protect your joints is to use load bearing assistive devices such as a cane or a brace.

Lastly, by maintaining a healthy weight will you will ease joint pain by reducing the stress on your joints.

Surgery to replace or repair damaged joints may be needed in severe, debilitating cases.

Surgical options include:

• Arthroplasty - the total or partial replacement of the deteriorated joint with an artificial joint
• Arthroscopic surgery to trim torn and damaged cartilage and wash out the joint
• For some younger patents with arthritis, cartilage restoration is a surgical option to replace the damaged or missing cartilage
• Osteotomy - the change in the alignment of a bone to relieve stress on the bone or joint
• Arthrodesis - the surgical fusion of bones, usually in the spine

Mental “Self Help” Skills:
While it can be tough, doing your best to keep a positive mental attitude and outlook is very important to the success you will achieve in living with and combating Osteoarthritis to maximize your quality of life.

Great strides continue to be made in this area and it’s important that you keep up to date with respect to the progress, events and new options that are continually being brought to the forefront of Osteoarthritis pain management and treatment.

Additionally, you can better manage how Osteoarthritis affects you emotionally by talking about your experiences and feelings with family members and friends, by doing mental exercises to keep the brain sharp, and by joining your local Arthritis support group.

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