To understand how osteoarthritis is viewed around the world, we first need to answer the question: what is osteoarthritis? It is the world’s most common joint disease. It develops when the cartilage – the tissue which covers the ends of the bones in our joints and distributes the load which the joints are exposed to – breaks down. Osteoarthritis can affect all joints in the body because we have cartilage in all our joints. Anyone can develop the disease, regardless of whether they are old, athletic, overweight or young – and regardless of where in the world they live.
What is osteoarthritis? – An explanation of the public health disease
Today, osteoarthritis so commonplace that it is classified as a public health disease. But, although many people have heard of the disease, they still ask the question: “What is osteoarthritis?”.
Osteoarthritis is a kind of collective term to explain different changes in the joint. It is mainly the cartilage that is adversely affected. Cartilage is the tissue which covers the bone ends enabling them to slide against each other with low resistance. But cartilage also helps to distribute the load on the joint ensuring that one part is not under more strain than another part. When cartilage breaks down it causes decreased movement and joint pain. This makes it difficult to continue to live a normal life.
Many people request a cure for the disease. Although there has been a lot of research around the issue, there is currently no medicine that is able to cure osteoarthritis. However, customized, long-term training can be used as treatment. If this training is difficult to manage, pain-relieving medications can be used if necessary.
The best way to treat osteoarthritis
For many years, the assessment reports have shown that osteoarthritis classes have had a very positive impact on pain and function for people with osteoarthritis. This type of treatment is available throughout and in some other places around the world. Statistics show that one in five people can stop taking medication related to osteoarthritis after attending osteoarthritis classes. In addition, many people who have previously been on sick leave have been able to return to work.
Unfortunately, osteoarthritis classes are not available in all parts of the world, but in a digital world it is easier than ever to get help. The Swedish app Joint Academy, for example, aims to be able to offer its services to an international audience. By using Joint Academy, osteoarthritis sufferers can receive treatment in the form of customized exercises and contact with a physiotherapist via their cell phones. This means that they can do rehabilitation exercises at home wherever they live.
How osteoarthritis is treated abroad
How can we answer the question “what is osteoarthritis” internationally? According to the World Health Organization (WHO), osteoarthritis is a disease which is more common in Europe and the United States than in the rest of the world. As large sections of the population today and in the future will be older than before, the risk of osteoarthritis will also increase. Being older is not a risk factor in itself, but older people may have exposed their joints to more strain for a longer period of time and are therefore at a higher risk.
In the USA, as in other parts of the western world, large sections of the population are also overweight. If you are overweight it causes excess strain on the joints if your muscles are not capable of supporting the additional weight. Even in the USA, exercise is recommended as the main form of treatment. This is because it can alleviate the symptoms that the disease causes. In other words, it is the treatment method that has been shown to have the best results internationally.
In the US, the use of chondriotin sulfate is advocated, which can have a positive impact on aching joints. This is a supplement that is usually used to treat pain and reduced function in connection with osteoarthritis. The substance mainly works in combination with glucosamine. ASU, which is found in avocado and soybeans, also contains anti-inflammatory substances and has been shown to reduce the development of joint pain more than a placebo. However, these are not methods recommended by doctors or physiotherapists as there is not yet enough science to justify recommendations. A health professional will always advocate exercise in the first instance.
Prosthetic surgery – a last resort
In most cases, if you seek a doctor’s help for your osteoarthritis symptoms, you should be given a prescription for training. However, in some cases the disease may be so far advanced that surgery is necessary. If this is the case, the patient will be referred to an orthopedic surgeon, a doctor with specialist training for diseases affecting joints, muscles and bones. In Sweden as well as abroad, surgery is only recommended when all other methods have been tried without success.