Osteoarthritis occur when the cartilage wears away, causing bones in the joints to rub against one another, which lead to increased friction, pain, swelling, and stiffness for the patient. Twenty years ago, it was largely believed that this disease only affected the geriatric population; however, an increasing number of patients in the thirty to fifty years age group are now being diagnosed with osteoarthritis. Though not fatal, osteoarthritis can lead to severe functional limitations, a decrease in the quality of life, or even cause a patient to be permanently bed-ridden.

This is the bane of modern life. It is common all over the world not just in south Asia. People all over the world are becoming inactive, using their cars and walking less. This leads to weight gain, decreased muscle and bone strength.

In India, growing obesity rates, vitamin D deficiency, jobs that involve kneeling, squatting or lifting heavy loads and untreated joint injuries are major factors that can lead to osteoarthritis, affecting almost 15 million people each year. The Indian population, in general, is more vulnerable to osteoarthritis than people from other parts of the world because of a genetic predisposition toward weaker bone and muscle strength.

Osteoarthritis is degeneration of joint cartilage and the underlying bone (weight bearing components) by varying degrees of functional limitation. It can present as localized, generalized or as erosive osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis most often occurs at the knees, hips, neck, lower back, small joints of hands and feet. Osteoarthritis (OA) is the second most common rheumatological problem and is the most frequent joint disease with prevalence of 22% to 39% in India.

Causes of Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis was long believed to be caused by the “wear and tear” of joints over time. Here are some of the factors that contribute to the development of OA:

  • Aging: The single most common cause of osteoarthritis is aging, as use of the joint over many years is likely to lead to breakdown of cartilage.
  • Family history: Genetics can play a role in bone abnormalities that result in distorted shape and problems with joint alignment. This is apparent in cases of bowed legs or double-jointed abilities, both of which are more likely to lead to development of osteoarthritis.
  • Obesity or excess weight. Weight-bearing joints are at risk for osteoarthritis in people who are significantly overweight. Because weight gain gradually increases stress on the joints, the onset of osteoarthritis symptoms may take many years to develop.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes is one of the causes leading to the osteoarthritis
  • Trauma: Trauma includes ligamentous injuries, surgery, fracture, dislocations etc.
  • Repetitive Injuries or Cumulative Traumas

Jobs that involve repetitive movements in a particular joint make OA more likely.

  • Diseases

Some diseases and conditions that increase the chance of developing OA are:

  • Gout
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Paget’s disease of the bone
  • Septic arthritis
  • Poor alignment of the knee, hip, and ankle or limb-length inequality
  • Diet: Diet may play a role. Research suggests that people with a lower level of vitamin D intake have a higher risk of OA, while in those with a low vitamin C intake, the disease may progress more rapidly.
  • Joint abnormalities: If you were born with abnormalities or developed them in childhood, it can lead to earlier and more severe osteoarthritis than usual. Perthes’ disease of the hips is an example.

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

Symptoms of osteoarthritis vary, depending on which joints are affected and how severely they are affected. However, the most common symptoms are pain and stiffness, particularly first thing in the morning or after resting. Affected joints may get swollen, especially after extended activity. Osteoarthritis symptoms often develop slowly and worsen over time. Signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis include:

  • Sore or stiff joints, particularly the hips, knees, and lower back after inactivity or overuse.
  • Limited range of motion or stiffness that goes away after movement
  • Clicking or cracking sound when a joint bends
  • Mild swelling around a joint
  • Pain that is worse after activity or toward the end of the day
  • Sleep problems
  • Problem in sitting, standing and walking
  • Difficulty in climbing stairs or going uphill
  • Affected joints are larger than usual
  • Joints feel warm and tender

Symptoms of osteoarthritis vary greatly from patient to patient. Some patients can be debilitated by their symptoms. On the other hand, others may have remarkably few symptoms in spite of dramatic degeneration of the joints seen on X-rays. Symptoms also can be intermittent. It is not unusual for patients with osteoarthritis of the hands and knees to have years of pain-free intervals between symptoms.

Precautions for Osteoarthritis

Since there’s no cure for OA, prevention is your best choice. You can lower your risk by:

  • Staying physically active
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Preventing injuries to your joints
  • Quit smoking and alcohol consumption
  • Taking natural vitamin D by sun bath
  • Consuming healthy diet rich in calcium and Vitamin C
  • Maintaining your Blood pressure
  • Exercising regularly Reducing weight

Home remedy of Osteoarthritis

Home remedies aren’t meant to replace your current treatment. But they may provide more relief for OA. Here are some of the home remedies you can try:

  • Hot and Cold Compresses: You can use both hot and cold compresses to manage joint pain due to osteoarthritis. While a hot compress will help reduce pain and stiffness, a cold compress will lessen swelling and inflammation.
  • Epsom salt bath: Epsom salt baths can provide allover relief, especially for joint pain. The magnesium in Epsom salt may help with inflammation and pain. Use 2 cups of Epsom salt in a bath of warm water at a temperature of about 102°F (38°C).
  • Support devices: Various types of assistive devices can offer added support without the need for medications. The exact devices you choose depend on the affected joints. You can use Lumino Cielo’s compression stockings, gloves and braces that can assist you in reliveing symptoms like pain, swelling and movement difficulties
  • Massage Therapy: Regularly massage the affected areas gently. This will help reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis.
  • Take Green Tea: Green tea contains polyphenols. These compounds may help reduce inflammation and increases cartilage protection.

Treatment of Osteoarthritis

Many people believe that the effects of osteoarthritis are inevitable, so they don’t do anything to manage it. OA symptoms can hinder work, social life and family life if steps are not taken to prevent joint damage, manage pain and increase flexibility. There is no cure for OA, but treatment can help relieve symptoms and maintain joint movement.

However following treatments are usually recommended:

  • Medications

It cannot reverse damage, but it can help reduce pain. Mostly acetaminophen and ibuprofen are used

  • Intra-articular cortisone injections

Severe pain can be treated by injecting a medication, usually a corticosteroid, directly into the site of the joint.

  • Surgery

Surgery is not usually necessary, but it may help if OA affects the hips, knees, joints, and the base of the thumbs. Surgical procedure includes:

  • Arthoplasty in which the damaged parts are surgically removed and a prosthesis, or artificial joint, made of metal and plastic, is inserted
  • Arthrodesis: In arthrodesis the joint may be realigned, stabilized, or surgically fixed to promote a bone fusion. This increases stability and reduces pain.
  • Osteotomy: A procedure in which a small section of bone is removed.
  • Physical Therapy

Physical therapy plays a vital role in minimizing the symptoms and progress of OA. Use of Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, exercises, manual therapy, mobilizations and gliding proved to be very effective in treating osteoarthritis.

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