Osteoarthritis: what you need to know
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common health condition that affects the body’s joints, limiting flexibility and movement. If you have OA, there are a number of reasons it may have occurred. In any affected joint, cartilage within roughens and gradually becomes thinner as the bone beneath the cartilage starts to thicken. The synovium thickens and makes additional fluid, leading to swelling of any affected joint, and bones at the edge of the joint start to form bony spurs. For some people, these changes lead to little pain because the body attempts to heal itself, but for others, the side effects are more severe, leading to cartilage becoming insufficient to cover the bones and then the bones start grating together. Joint shape can also begin to change.
Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
- Joint pain which intensifies when moved or may appear worse in the evening
- Stiffness – lessens with movement
- Grinding – there may be creaking noises during movement
- Swelling – hard or soft swelling of the joint may occur
- Lack of movement – restricted movement due to instability of the joint or where muscles have weakened
Symptoms are likely to vary but you may find that where there are changes in the weather – perhaps a damp spell – this could trigger aches and pains in the joint, or when over or under exercising.
Causes of Osteoarthritis
- Age – it may commence from the late 40s, when muscles weaken or the joints start wearing out
- Joint injury – OA may occur after injury but equally could commence through having a physically demanding job
- Obesity – being overweight increases the potential of having OA, especially in the weight-bearing joints
- Gender – OA tends to be more common and severe in women
- Joint abnormalities – if born with abnormalities, or if they developed later on in life, this can lead to severe osteoarthritis
- Genetic – there are some rare forms of OA that impact collagen; also, nodal osteoarthritis mainly impacts the hands of women during middle age
Treatment Options for Osteoarthritis
It is important to gain a correct diagnosis for osteoarthritis and to find the appropriate pain relief if required. If the pain is relatively mild to moderate, some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may be sufficient. If the pain is more severe, opioids may be a better option. Your doctor will advise you of the best medicines to take. Medicine will not cure your osteoarthritis but you may find that using medication alongside regular exercise such as yoga or walking, and undertaking physical therapy, will all help with the healing process.
Chiropractic treatment can be surprisingly beneficial as it helps to reduce pain by aligning the spine and aiding muscles and joints to move better, impacting your body’s response to pain. Manipulation of the spine will also naturally increase the range of motion available, not just in the spine, but also the shoulders and hips – it is likely that you will feel a release of tension in the muscles as a result. The Chiropractor may suggest taking glucosamine in supplement form to aid relief, but any Chiropractor who has experience treating osteoarthritis will also create a treatment plan for you so that healing continues outside of the therapy sessions.