Osteoarthritis – everything you want to know

Last modified: December 14, 2018

Osteoarthritis is the world’s most common joint disease and today affects about 1 in 4 people over the age of 45 in Sweden. The disease causes the affected joint to become stiff and painful, especially at stress.

Osteoarthritis affects the cartilage

To understand the disease, we need to take a closer look at the cartilage. Cartilage is a tissue that covers the ends of all the bones in the skeleton and makes them slide easier against each other. Osteoarthritis is due to an imbalance in the production of the building blocks of the cartilage, which causes the joint to slowly break down. Gradually, it is harder for the joints to slide against each other and the shock absorption gets worse. This can cause symptoms such as stiff joints, joint pain, and swelling. Any joint may be affected, but hips and knees are most common.

If we look closer at a joint affected by osteoarthritis, we will see some changes in the joint. However, the relationship between these changes and the symptoms that occur are poor. Many people that suffer from a lot of pain in the joints have no visible changes, while some of those who have very visible changes barely notice their disease. The positive side is that the symptoms can be treated.

Exercise as an osteoarthritis treatment

The treatment that is effective on osteoarthritis, and recommended by the the National Board of Health, as well as international organisations and research, is training in combination with education and weight control. This is, for example, offered in Osteoarthritis training courses which are available nationwide. Another option is the treatment center, Joint Academy, where the treatment is given via a mobile app.

Exercise stimulates the growth of the building blocks of the cartilage and allows it to repair itself, just as muscles get stronger by exercise. The stronger muscles that are built up up during exercise relieve the joint and make the affected joint more protected. Thus, it is possible to reduce the joint pain and other symptoms with the help of exercise.

Another advantage of training is that it makes it easier to lose weight. Less body weight reduces stress on the joints which can slow down the development of osteoarthritis. But it is actually not necessary with any bigger changes, like suddenly going to the gym several days a week and only eating lettuce. Instead, start small, so it’s easier to keep up. A few minutes of training a day and a bit more vegetables on the plate or as a snack can do wonders, both for your arthritis and your health in general.

To live with osteoarthritis

Many are discouraged when diagnosed with osteoarthritis because they think they will not be able to maintain an active life. Fortunately, many can continue their normal life, especially if treatment is started in time. Physical activity is not just something that is fun for many, but it is also a necessity in the treatment.
​For some people the disease creates so many obstacles that it becomes impossible to continue to live as before. In these cases, it may be necessary to consider an operation, something that you can read more about here. Regardless of whether surgery becomes necessary or not, it is always good to exercise, but also to try to live a healthy life in general.

QUICK FACTS ABOUT OSTEOARTHRITIS

  • Osteoarthritis is the world’s most common joint disease
  • The disease affects the cartilage in the joints so that it slowly breaks down
  • The hip and knee joints are more commonly affected than other joints
  • Osteoarthritis can be treated with changes in lifestyle and education