Osteoarthritis

Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

What is Osteoarthritis?

Often referred to as degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis (OS) is the most common form of arthritis. This condition typically develops as we age, a result of excessive wear and tear of the joints. Joints connect the bones in our body, linking the skeletal system into a functional whole. In the normal joint, the place where two bones meet is covered by a rubbery material called cartilage. The cartilage covers the surface of the bones where they meet to form the joint, allowing the bones to glide over each other smoothly and without pain. As we get older, the cartilage begin to break down, causing the bones to slide over each other directly. Sometimes, pieces of the bone can chip off and prevent smooth movement of the joint.

Causes of Osteoarthritis

The causes of osteoarthritis are not specific, as several factors can lead to its development, including:

  • Age– Osteoarthritis can occur at any age. It is most common in people over the age of 40 and people older than 60. Numbers show that one in 12 people over the age of 60 will have osteoarthritis, and 1 in 4 will develop osteoarthritis by the age of 85.
  • Weight– Weight puts additional strain on joints, especially on the hips and knees and speeds up their degradation. Research shows that carrying extra pounds increases the risk of osteoarthritis, particularly in the hands. According to studies, excess fat tissue produces inflammatory chemicals that can damage the joints, causing the cartilage to break down faster. Therefore, if you are overweight, losing weight can help in preventing onset of osteoarthritis.
  • Injury and overuse– Repetitive movements performed by athletes and certain occupations can also speed up the breakdown of the joint cartilage. This includes actions such as repetitive bending, and heavy or imbalanced lifting. Also, certain injuries, such as fractures and  surgery or ligament tears, can lead to abnormal load and accelerate the wear and tear on the joints.
  • Genetics: Last, but not least, having genetic traits connected to the production of collagen in the body, or traits that cause defects in the way bones fit together, may also be the origin of early osteoarthritis.

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

Depending on the severity of the condition and the type of joints affected, the symptoms vary widely. However, the most common symptoms of osteoarthritis are pain and stiffness.

These symptoms are most noticeable in the morning, or after resting from an extended activity, as joints may get swollen, causing severe pain and stiffness. Interestingly, these two main symptoms can also occur after prolonged rest. Other symptoms include:

  • Limited range of motion
  • Swelling around the affected area
  • Cracking sounds

These symptoms don’t happen suddenly, but, in a gradual manner, worsening over time.

The pain, swelling and stiffness can make routine tasks very difficult to perform. When the fingers are involved, the patient can find it difficult to type, open cans and boxes, and even drive a car. When the knees are involved it will become more difficult to walk upstairs and lift objects.

Osteoarthritis can affect every joint, but the most commonly affected joints are the ones which experience the highest amount of usage or weight, such as:

  1. Neck and lower back
  2. Knee
  3. Hip
  4. Joints of fingers
  5. Base of thumb
  6. Base of big toe

Numbers show that people with osteoarthritis tend to experience around 30% more falls than a regular person. This increases the risk of fractures in these patients by 20%. The falls are mainly caused by deceased joint function, muscle weakness, and impaired balance.

How is Osteoarthritis Diagnosed?

Medical History

Once you visit the doctor and describe the severity and history of the symptoms you have been experiencing, you will help the doctor create a picture of your condition which will help decide whether your symptoms fit into osteoarthritis.

Physical Examination

Next, the doctor will inspect your joints and depending on your symptoms, they may have you perform some maneuvres to see if they can confirm the presence of OS. Usually the doctor will check your joints’ range of motion and look for other signs of joint damage.

Osteoarthritis Diagnostic Tests

Your doctor may also request X-rays or an MRI to get a better look at the joints, particularly the soft tissues of your joints. MRI is better at diagnosing osteoarthritis at earlier stages than X-rays. If the results are still unclear, your doctor may decide to perform a joint aspiration – take some fluid out of your joint with a needle – and proceed with further lab tests. This test is helpful in ruling out other medical conditions or forms of arthritis.

Avoid Misdiagnosis!

Osteoarthritis is a condition where the doctor is unable to perform a particular test on a patient that will confirm that the pain is caused by OA. This means, the doctor first needs to rule out all possibilities of pain and avoid classifying the pain under OA. Many patients that suffer from joint pain that don’t have an obvious cause are misdiagnosed with osteoarthritis. To avoid being misdiagnosed, visit our KKT clinic.

KKT utilizes more sophisticated 3D imaging technology and advanced analytics software which is largely unavailable in other clinics and hospitals. This gives our highly experienced team of medical professionals more detailed information of the presence of “hotspots” in your back and joints. The images obtained are used to establish a specific diagnosis and later used to create a personalized treatment protocol focused on correcting the problem areas.

What Can I Do to Feel Better?

The best way to manage osteoarthritis is to get sufficient exercise. Current guidelines recommend a minimum of 150 minutes per week of physical activity to prevent onset of osteoarthritis and to decrease deterioration of your joint. Exercise helps to maintain muscle strength, which helps ease the burden on those joints. Routine stretching can also help maintain range of motion and flexibility of your joint. However, before you begin any exercise program it is important to talk to your KKT specialist.

Unfortunately, 25% of people aren’t able to tolerate such an intense physical activity due to pain. Therefore, weight loss can be beneficial for overweight patients. This removes extra strain of your joints, which will lessen pain and may help people tolerate more exercise. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) showed that obese women are almost four times as likely as non-obese women to develop osteoarthritis, the risk being five times greater for obese men.

There are also a few pain relief options available. To figure out which is right for you, it is important to experiment with different methods and see which ones work the best. This includes options such as hot or cold packs, or even experimenting with different types of creams and gels. You may have to try a combination of exercises, medicines, and devices until, together with your KKT doctor, you finally develop a personalized treatment plan. However, most people will resort to pain medications to help relieve their symptoms 

Another way to prevent osteoarthritis is to avoid joint injuries or to get prompt medical treatment in case of injury. A study conducted by the graduates of John Hopkins Medical School revealed that people who suffered a knee injury during  adolescence were three times more likely to develop osteoarthritis compared to peers who had not suffered an injury.

Another way to prevent osteoarthritis is to avoid joint injuries or get prompt medical treatment in case of injury. A study conducted by the graduates of Johns Hopkins Medical School revealed that people who suffered a knee injury during their adolescence were three times more likely to develop osteoarthritis compared to peers who had not suffered an injury.

Osteoarthritis Treatment Options

Osteoarthritis gradually  worsens with time if not treated properly, or if the progression of the disease is aggressive. Therefore, pain relief strategies mentioned earlier will not help for long-term pain reduction. In such circumstances, few patients may qualify for joint replacement surgery, especially if the knee or hip is involved. Unfortunately, there are significant risks to such treatment which are generally inherent to all surgeries, such as infection and substantial blood loss. Also, the implanted joint only lasts for 10-20 years. Therefore, you may eventually require another surgery.

Luckily, recent evidence has shown that the KKT treatment can stimulate cells to release chemicals that restore the health of your cartilage. Since this is done non-invasively, it is a very safe and very effective option for many patients. However, to get the maximum benefit it is important to begin the treatment as early as possible.

If you are concerned about any of the signs and symptoms above, a comprehensive diagnostic assessment by a KKT physician will show if you require treatment. Click here to find your nearest KKT clinic and book an appointment.

 

TESTIMONIAL

I didn’t know I had developed arthritis at age 39. It had sneaked up on me. I was shocked to see my x-rays that showed advanced stages of degeneration resulting in graduated restriction to my neck movement and pain into my shoulder and arms. Luckily the KKT Treatment restored my neck within a few weeks. The improvements were dramatic and my x-rays actually showed a reversal to some of the damage that was done over the years. My mobility is fully restored and the pain is gone.

– Georgina Ostrow.

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