Arthritis – Osteoarthritis
Continuing our series of posts in which Kiran endeavours to provide a greater understanding of arthritis and how it may impact on the lives of you and your loved ones. In this weeks’ post, we provide further information regarding one condition which is non-inflammatory in origin – Osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis is the most commonly known type of arthritis which affects approximately 6.7 million people in the UK, (this is followed by rheumatoid arthritis which affects 400,000), according to the Oxford Economics study in 2008. These two are by far the most prevalent types affecting the UK population.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disorder which happens when the joints are damaged through age, trauma or overuse, obesity, weak muscles and genetics. It is characterised by changes to the cartilage (the soft tissue which protects the bones). The cartilage may become rough, bony spurs may occur and the joint capsule may thicken resulting in a stiff and painful joint.
Osteoarthritis occurs most commonly in women; the incidence of which increases with age, which is why it is often referred to as “wear and tear.” However, athletes and individuals who have jobs which require repetitive movement are at a higher risk of developing osteoarthritis due to an increase in the stress and load placed upon the joints. Furthermore, it can develop when individuals have broken bones (fractures) or had surgical intervention. Carrying excess weight can also predispose an individual to developing osteoarthritis due to an increase in mechanical load. Furthermore, studies have suggested that obesity causes chemicals to be released which cause joint damage indicative of a more systemic cause. Weak muscles can also be a contributing factor to the development of osteoarthritis. Studies of the knee have shown that weakness of the muscles around the knee can lead to osteoarthritis but that strengthening is also important to reduce the risk of developing changes to the knee joint. Genetics is also known to play a role in the development of osteoarthritis, especially in the hands.
Whilst it is impossible to stop the disease process there are actions which can be taken to decrease the pain, stiffness and manage the condition. Painkillers and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories may help to relieve the pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis. Physiotherapy can help to maintain joint range of movement, muscle strength and soft tissue length. Furthermore, physiotherapists will address biomechanical alignment and posture in addition to pain management including through the use of electrotherapy and acupuncture. They can offer advice and education on exercise, pain relief and tips to help you to manage your condition.