Osteoarthritis

Last modified: August 2, 2019

Osteoarthritis is the most common joint disease in the world. It currently affects around one in four people over the age of 45 in the US. As a result of this disease, the affected joint becomes stiff and causes pain, mainly during any kind of exertion.

Contents

●     General facts about osteoarthritis

●     Treating osteoarthritis

●     Different joints are affected in different ways

●     Joint pain for other reasons

●     Function of joints and skeleton

●     A healthy lifestyle with osteoarthritis

General facts about osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is one of the world’s most common diseases. It is also one of the diseases that has the greatest disease burden, both for the private individual and society in general. Despite the fact that it is so widespread, our knowledge about everything from diagnosis to treatment is limited. This applies not just to the general public but also within the healthcare field. Therefore, it is important to find qualitative information that is up-to-date based on the latest research.

Here at artros.org, all of the content is based on extensive research and the guidelines that are available for diagnosis and treatment of the disease. All information is in-line with the recommendations of the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare, as well as directives from international organizations, such as OARSI (Osteoarthritis Research Society International).

Start learning more about osteoarthritis.

Treating osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is treated in different stages. You can imagine a pyramid, where all parts are built on top of each other. Not everyone needs to climb to the top of the pyramid. The foundation for treatment is customized, guided exercises in combination with education on how to best manage the disease. This should be offered to everyone suffering from the disease.

In those cases where exercise and education do not provide sufficient relief, or if the patient has so much pain that they cannot perform the exercises, pain relief can be used. Simple, anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving medications, such as Ipren, Voltaren and Pronaxen, are primarily used. If more intensive and consistent pain relief is needed, cortisone injections can be used in certain cases. Regardless of which form of pain relief is applicable, it should only be used as needed. Exercise still forms the basis for treatment.

The last stage, which is only considered for some people affected by the disease, involves surgery. If hip or knee osteoarthritis is involved, prosthetic surgery is an option. If other joints are affected, for example, arthrodesis can be an option.

Read more about treating osteoarthritis.

Different joints are affected in different ways

Osteoarthritis primarily affects articular cartilage. Articular cartilage exists in all joints in the body and functions as a sliding surface. This makes it easy for the different parts in the joint to slide against each other without any resistance. At the same time, the cartilage is designed to evenly distribute the load on the joint. All tissues in the body are constantly subject to a process of creation and deterioration. Osteoarthritis upsets this balance, so that the tissue in the articular cartilage breaks down faster than it is built up again.

Since cartilage is found in all of our joints, all of our joints can be affected by osteoarthritis. The most common form is hip and knee osteoarthritis, but you can also develop osteoarthritis in the fingers, the spinal column and jaw, for example. The primary symptoms are the same regardless which joint is affected: joint pain and stiffness. The course of the disease and the treatment for it, however, can differ depending on which joint is affected.

Continue reading about osteoarthritis in specific joints.

Joint pain for other reasons

Even if osteoarthritis is a relatively common disease, there are obviously other reasons for joint pain. Another diagnosis that can produce similar symptoms is, for example, rheumatoid arthritis, often shortened to RA. There are also different types of injuries that can produce knee pain, such as ligament or meniscus injuries. Regardless of when and how the pain in the joints develops, it is a good idea to visit your doctor and get a diagnosis. Without the right diagnosis, you cannot start the right treatment.

Find more information about the different conditions that can cause joint pain.

Function of joints and skeleton

Our joints and skeleton, together with our muscles, are what makes it possible for us to move around. The function of the skeleton is to keep us upright, but also to protect our organs. The joints bring the different parts of the skeleton together in a good way so that they slide against each other. Both the joint and skeleton are incredibly important in everything we do – walking, sitting, standing or running. When a person becomes injured or sick, everyday life can be affected to a very significant degree. However, much of the pain can be prevented. For this reason, it is a good idea to develop an understanding of how to take care of your skeleton and your joints.

Read more about the skeleton and joints.

A healthy lifestyle with osteoarthritis

Most of us recognize that our lifestyle plays a large role in the development of different diseases, even if we do not exactly know how. For example, we know that it is good to eat a varied diet, to get exercise each day and to sleep well. When it comes to specifically osteoarthritis, exercise plays a particularly large role. Both specific, customized exercises and general physical activity are good for pain relief.

However, other lifestyle factors also can play a role. Diet can have a certain impact, primarily when it comes to weight loss. Since osteoarthritis is related to how much of a load is placed on the joint, it may be relevant for the patient to lose weight. Lower body weight and/or stronger muscles means a lighter load on the joints.

Continue reading about risk factors for osteoarthritis.