Despite the fact that osteoarthritis is such a widespread disease, we know relatively little about it. For example, there is still no cure, and the causes behind the disease are not entirely clear. However, we know that there are several factors that affect the course of the disease – both positively and negatively. Factors such as an increasing overall BMI (more excess weight) and less physical activity means that more and more people are affected. Research has also made clear that the only thing that helps with the actual disease, and not just the symptoms, is specific training with guidance from a physical therapist.
The nationwide disease of osteoarthritis
Roughly a quarter of the US population over the age of 45 has been diagnosed with osteoarthritis. This doesn’t just mean a reduced quality of life for those affected, but also major social costs. For example, osteoarthritis accounts for a significant percentage of all prolonged sick leaves. Persons with osteoarthritis in their knees are actually twice as likely to take sick leave compared to the overall population.
The disease also results in many surgeries. Inserting hip and knee prosthetics are amongst the most common surgical interventions today, and they continue to increase. A number of these also occur without having performed any basic treatment in the form of physical therapy. Therefore, the first step for person who is affected by osteoarthritis should always be to meet with a physical therapist.
Primary, secondary, or generalized osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis can develop in different ways and in various (or multiple) joints. The disease is named differently as a result. A common, but disputed, division is between primary and secondary osteoarthritis. For primary osteoarthritis, the disease cannot be attributed to one single event. However, secondary osteoarthritis is the result of a congenital disease or a prior joint injury. Osteoarthritis that occurs as a result of an injury can also be called post-traumatic osteoarthritis. However, many people feel that all osteoarthritis develops as the result of one or more risk factors, and that the distinction between primary and secondary osteoarthritis is therefore not particularly valuable.
Generalized osteoarthritis is a clearer concept. In order to receive this diagnosis, at least three joints in the body need to be affected by the disease. For example, this can involve two knees and one hip. This is a very simple way to describe whether or not several joints have been affected.