Osteoarthritis affects millions of Canadians and is the most common form of arthritis worldwide. Here is what you need to know about this condition for which effective treatments exist. 

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that involves thinning or destruction of the smooth cartilage that covers the ends of bones, as well as changes to the bone underlying the joint cartilage. It is the most common chronic condition of the joints. 

How do we recognize osteoarthritis?

Usually very painful, osteoarthritis often affects the spine, fingers and thumbs, hips and knees. Common symptoms include aching, joint pain, morning stiffness and reduced range of motion. Each joint is affected differently, and the symptoms are variable. However, pain intensity increases over time as osteoarthritis is a progressive disease.

What is the difference between Osteoporosis and Osteoarthritis?

Osteoporosis is a skeletal condition with decreased bone density. It is asymptomatic and painless unless a fracture occurs. Osteoarthritis is a condition that affects the joints and tissues around them.

What are the first signs of osteoarthritis?

Symptoms often develop slowly and worsen over time. Many signs can be related to osteoarthritis. These include pain, tenderness, stiffness and swelling. 

What are the risk factors of osteoarthritis?

Genetic factors may contribute to the development of osteoarthritis. Other factors are excessive weight, inactivity, infection and traumatic injuries. 

What are treatment options?

Regular workout sessions are great. Don’t worry if you can’t find a large chunk of time to exercise every day. Any amount of activity is better than none at all to keep your joints strong and flexible! Yet, over-exercising can be as bad for your muscles and joints if you overload them. It’s all about finding a balance that works for you. Choose a low impact sport, exercise in the water or on a bicycle for example.

Medication in the form of pain killers and anti-inflammatory agents are helpful in controlling the pain. In some cases, corticosteroid injections could be done.

Newer treatments in regenerative medicine in the form of Platelet Rich Plasma or Stem Cell Therapy are now available in the treatment of osteoarthritis. Recent studies have shown good potential in controlling inflammation and regenerating cartilage.

What are the complications?

This degenerative disease worsens with time. Symptoms may become severe and cause disability.

What about prevention?

The best way to prevent osteoarthritis is to maintain a healthy lifestyle by doing physical activities, having a healthy diet and managing your stress.

Excess weight is also widely acknowledged as a risk factor for osteoarthritis. Losing weight is one of the best prevention tip for osteoarthritis as it will decrease the load on your joints, which will reduce pain and symptoms.

When to consult?

Consult your physician if you feel pain or stiffness in your joints. Do not wait for the symptoms to become important and make your daily like uncomfortable. 

What can my orthopedic surgeon do for me? 

It depends on the stage of your illness and its nature. A clear radiologic diagnosis that could be assisted by ultrasound will reveal which treatment is appropriate for you. Your treatment plan could be variable and could range from medication, braces, physical therapy, corticosteroid injections, PRP, Stem Cell Therapy or even surgery.

By acting quickly, you will maintain your health and quality of life.