Have you ever experienced pain in your knees while walking? Or maybe your joints feel stiff especially after getting up in the morning? These are some of the symptoms of osteoarthritis.
Read on to learn more about osteoarthritis (OA).
What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis with more than 300 million cases of osteoarthritis worldwide involving just the knee or hip alone.¹
It is regarded as a chronic degenerative joint disorder due to the wear and tear of joint cartilage and inflammation, causing pain, stiffness and impaired movement. Osteoarthritis commonly affects the joints in the hands, hips, spine and knees but any joint can be involved.²
The symptoms of osteoarthritis result in loss of function and limited activities of daily living in patients because of pain and stiffness.² This outcome can lead to poor quality of life.
What causes Osteoarthritis?
There are multiple risk factors associated with osteoarthritis such as:³
Aging – Thinning of joint cartilage and reduced hydration
Joint injury – Injuries that result in ligament or meniscal tears, or after injuries such as fractures that involve the joint
Obesity – Body weight is a risk factor for OA not only in weight-bearing joints including the knee and hip, but also in the hand
Genetics – Rare mutations in collagen types II, IX, or XI, which are structural collagens found in articular cartilage
Anatomic factors – Joint shape, particularly of the hip, can influence the development of OA such as ‘bow-legged’ or ‘knocked-knee’ deformities
Sex – OA of the hands and knees is more common in women than men
What are the Symptoms of Osteoarthritis?
Signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis includes:⁴
Joint pain – worse with joint use and relieved by rest
Joint swelling and tenderness – inflammation around the joint that is warm and tender to the touch
Joint stiffness – reduced range of motion of affected joints most noticeable after inactivity
Joint deformity – bowing of the legs or ‘knock knees’ and crooked fingers
Joint instability – ‘giving way’ or buckling in knee OA
Despite myths, physical activity is one of the best ways to manage symptoms of osteoarthritis.
Best Treatment & Management for Osteoarthritis
Physical activity – Clinical trials have shown that muscle strengthening and range of motion exercises have demonstrated significant improvements in osteoarthritis symptoms such as reduction in pain and improvement in physical function.²
Lose weight – Since obesity is one of the risk factors for osteoarthritis, weight loss may be beneficial.² Aerobic exercise is important for weight loss, but can be challenging in persons with osteoarthritis of weight-bearing joints. Swimming, elliptical training, cycling, and upper body exercise may help in such cases.
Use assistive devices - Bracing and splinting can help support painful or unstable joints.² A cane can help reduce the weight load in persons with hip or knee osteoarthritis.
Take medicines – There are oral painkillers that you can get from the pharmacy or your doctor. However, painkillers like Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) have side effects which may include gastrointestinal bleeding, renal dysfunction, and blood pressure elevation.² Depending on the severity, your doctor may also recommend that you receive injections of steroids into your joint which has proven effectiveness in knee OA and provides relief up to 8 weeks.²
Take joint supplements – Supplements such as glucosamine, Indian frankincense and turmeric have been clinically shown to improve symptoms of osteoarthritis. For example, AFLAPIN (a patented formula of Indian frankincense) was demonstrated in a study to provide significant improvements in joint pain and stiffness in as early as 7 days.⁵
Surgery - Reserved for patients whose symptoms have not responded to other treatments.² The surgical procedures involve replacement of the affected joints with prostheses.
Osteoarthritis is a common problem affecting many and reducing their quality of life.
With young adults being more physically active, the average age for the affected population is also getting younger.
There are various ways to manage osteoarthritis depending on the severity. Do consult your healthcare provider for the most suitable therapy for you.
1. Safiri S, Kolahi A, Smith E, et al. Global, regional and national burden of osteoarthritis 1990-2017: a systematic analysis of the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases 2020;79:819-828
2. Sinusas K. Osteoarthritis: Diagnosis and Treatment. Am Fam Physician. 2012 Jan 1;85(1):49-56
3. Loeser RF. Pathogenesis of osteoarthritis. In: UpToDate, Post, TW (Ed), UpToDate, Waltham, MA, 2021
4. Doherty M, Abhishek A. Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of osteoarthritis. In: UpToDate, Post, TW (Ed), UpToDate, Waltham, MA, 2021
5. Sengupta K, Krishnaraju AV, Vishal AA, et al. Comparative efficacy and tolerability of 5-Loxin and Aflapin against osteoarthritis of the knee: a double blind, randomized, placebo controlled clinical study. Int J Med Sci. 2010;7(6):366-377.
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