Taking Care of Joints

Osteoarthritis — the gradual breakdown of cartilage in a joint — is the most common type of arthritis and the most common joint disorder. While it can’t be cured, there are many options for osteoarthritis treatment.

The onset of osteoarthritis is a normal part of aging. Usually people begin to experience symptoms in their 50s or 60s, with practically every person experiencing symptoms by 70 years of age.

Osteoarthritis develops over time, as the cartilage in a person’s joints wears away and bones eventually come in contact. Without the rubbery cushioning the cartilage provided, the bones begin to rub against one another and can cause a great deal of pain as the situation becomes more severe.

Osteoarthritis treatment really begins with prevention. Maintaining good joint health and movement is crucial to delaying the symptoms of osteoarthritis, or at least minimizing their severity at the first signs of onset. The following are important considerations:

  • Maintain a healthy weight, since extra body weight hastens wear and tear on joints.
  • Eat a nutritious and balanced diet.
  • Avoid activities and sports involving a lot of direct impact on the joint, or in which there is a high risk of joint injuries.
  • Avoid kneeling or squatting for long periods of time.
  • Avoid repeated heavy lifting.
  • Avoid climbing excessive numbers of stairs.
  • Get a good night’s sleep on a consistent basis.

For someone who is already experiencing significant symptoms, osteoarthritis treatment will usually include medications, physical therapy and lifestyle changes.

Depending on how severe the symptoms are, medications could range from over-the-counter pain relievers and topical creams to NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and corticosteroid injections — or some combination thereof.

Physical therapy exercises can also be effectively incorporated into osteoarthritis treatment plans. Typically the therapist will guide the patient through a series of exercises designed to minimize joint stiffness, and improve muscle strength, mobility and balance. Massage therapy and acupuncture are two other types of therapy that have been used in osteoarthritis treatment.

In some serious cases, surgery may be the best form of treatment. It may include fusing bones so they no longer rub against each other; removing damaged cartilage; adjusting a bone’s alignment to eliminate friction; or replacing the damaged joint with an artificial joint, such as in a hip or knee replacement surgery.

Image via Robert Couse-Baker on Flickr


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