Orthopedic Diseases



Osteoarthritis is one of the most common forms of arthritis. It often occurs in the joints of the hands, hips and knees. With age, the joint cartilage begins to wear out, and the basic bones begin to change. These changes usually happen slowly and can get worse over time. Osteoarthritis causes pain, stiffness, and swelling, and in some cases, disability. Some people may find that osteoarthritis hinders them from performing daily tasks or working.

With age, the cartilage lining the joint (which allows the joint to move easily) wears out. This occurs slowly; causing the joint bones to rub against each other. This results in pain and swelling when the joint moves. Moreover, pieces of worn out cartilage may also separate and impede bone movement. This leads to increased pain, swelling and stiffness.

Risk factors:
Some factors that can increase your risk of developing osteoarthritis include:
  • Age: Older people use their joints for longer periods of time;
  • Sex: Women are more likely than men to develop osteoporosis, especially after the age of 50;
  • A family history of osteoarthritis;
  • Being overweight or obese: Being overweight can worsen the condition in the weight-bearing joints (e.g. knees, hips, and spine);
  • Joint injury: Joints that were injured, damaged, or previously injected with steroids may be more prone to osteoarthritis;​
  • Having a job that requires doing the same repeated movement. People who do such jobs are at a higher risk of developing osteoarthritis.

Symptoms develop slowly and usually begin with one joint. They include:
  • Pain when using the joint, which may improve with rest. For those in later stages of the condition, the pain may be worse at night;
  • Stiffness of the joint, which usually lasts less than 30 minutes in the morning, or after a long rest;
  • Swelling in and around the joint, especially after using it for a while.
  • Impaired ability to move the joint;
  • Unstable joint;
  • Hearing a sound when moving the joint;
  • As symptoms worsen, certain activities (e.g. climbing the stairs) may be harder for people with osteoarthritis;
  • Pain and other symptoms of osteoarthritis can make you feel tired and cause you sleep problems and depression;

When to see a doctor?
  • When symptoms of osteoarthritis are present (e.g. pain, stiffness, or swelling in one or more joints);
  • Arthritis is of many types, and you can have more than one type at the same time.

Your doctor will be able to diagnose osteoarthritis by looking at your medical history and performing a physical examination. Your doctor may request x-rays on the affected joint, or even a blood test to rule out other forms of arthritis. He may also perform an MRI scan on the joint, or take a sample of joint fluid to rule out other causes of joint pain (e.g. infection or gout).

Osteoarthritis treatment aims to:
  • Alleviate the pain and other symptoms;
  • Improve joint function;
  • Prevent the condition from getting worse;
  • Maintain the patient’s quality of life.

Treatment usually includes:
  • Exercising: It can reduce joint pain and stiffness and increase flexibility and muscle strength. Talk to a professional about a safe exercise routine. Remember to start gradually and take your time to adjust to every new level of activity;
  • Weight loss: Losing weight helps reduce the pressure on your joints. It also relieves pain, prevents further injury, and improves joint mobility;
  • Preventing further injury and improving mobility in the joints;
  • Using special devices to support bone movement (e.g. canes);
  • Some people may need medications to help control symptoms like pain;
  • Your doctor may recommend surgery if all other treatments don't help your condition.

Osteoarthritis progression:
  • Although many people with osteoarthritis have no symptoms, progressive joint failure can ultimately lead to pain and disability.
  • Patients with chronic osteoarthritis (especially in lower-limb joints) who do not exercise, have an increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
  • Obese people who have osteoarthritis are more likely to have more advanced stages of the disease. 
  • Vitamin D deficiency may cause osteoarthritis.

There is no guaranteed method of prevention; but you can keep the risk factors under control if you: 
  • Maintain a healthy weight by following a healthy diet;
  • Exercise regularly;
  • Quit smoking;
  • Protect your joints from injuries by doing exercise that targets them;
  • Make sure that your work site is free from fall hazards and has room, equipment and tools that suit your physical ability;
  • See your doctor immediately if your joints are swollen, warm, or red, as they may have an infection.

Osteoarthritis and physical activity:
If you have osteoarthritis , moderate physical activities (e.g. walking, cycling and swimming) can alleviate pain and improve your work, mood, and quality of life. Additionally, physical activity can delay the onset of arthritis-related disabilities and can help those who have it treat other chronic diseases (e.g. diabetes, heart disease, and obesity).

Recommended physical activity:
Stay as active as your health allows. Change your level of activity depending on your symptoms. Little physical activity is better than no physical activity at all.

Tips for safe exercise while having osteoarthritis:
  • Start slow: pay attention to how your body tolerates this new exercise. Start with little activity (3 to 5 minutes twice a day, for example) then add more activity each time (such as 10 minutes at a time). Give your body enough time to adjust to every new level before making changes.
  • Make modifications to your activity if you notice that your symptoms become more severe (e.g. pain, stiffness, and fatigue), while trying to remain as active as possible without making your symptoms worse.
  • Avoid aggressive physical activity: choose activities that are easy on the joints (e.g. walking, cycling, or water aerobics).
  • Exercise in safe places, such as areas where sidewalks or paths are level and free from obstructions. Look for places that are well-lit and far from heavy traffic.
  • Talk to a professional about the physical activity you are allowed to do according to your capabilities and health goals.

Tips to help reduce pain during or after exercise:
It is normal to experience some pain and stiffness on starting a new physical activity program. It may take 6 to 8 weeks for your joints to get used to the new level of activity. Sticking to a fixed physical activity program will lead to long-term pain relief. When you feel pain, do the following: 
  • Make modifications to your physical activity program by exercising less (fewer days of the week) or for shorter periods of time.
  • Try different types of exercises that put less pressure on your joints (e.g. shifting from walking to water aerobics or yoga).

See your doctor if you experience any of the following: 
  • Sharp and constant pain in the joint;
  • Pain that results in a limp;
  • Pain that lasts for more than 2 hours after exercise or gets worse at night;
  • Pain or swelling that does not get better with rest, medication, or hot or cold compresses;
  • Increasing joint swelling or redness. 

Myths & Truths:
  • People with osteoarthritis cannot lead healthy lives.
    • Truth: People with osteoarthritis can live healthy if they maintain a healthy lifestyle. 

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Last Update : 11 November 2020 01:22 AM
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