It’s no secret: when we age, our bodies can have problems. Even the healthiest people, who work hard every day, focusing on diet and exercise, can face problems with aging–specifically osteoarthritis. That’s why it’s so important to not only focus on diet and exercise but also to learn about the specific diseases and negative health factors that happen as we get older.
What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. Unlike Rheumatoid Arthritis, Osteoarthritis is not an autoimmune disease. That is, the body is not attacking itself and triggering pain. Osteoarthritis is “wear and tear” arthritis; it can be triggered by the wear and tear of everyday life over a long period of time. Only the joints are affected, not internal organs.
Joints connect bones, and in those joints is cartilage. Healthy cartilage makes it so that the joints can smoothly glide over each and absorbs the shock of movement. When Osteoarthritis occurs, the cartilage wears away, and bones rub together. This results in pain, swelling, and the loss of ease of motion.
X-rays of the affected joints can suggest osteoarthritis. The common X-ray findings of osteoarthritis include loss of joint cartilage, narrowing of the joint space between adjacent bones, and bone spur formation. Simple X-ray testing can be very helpful to exclude other causes of pain in a particular joint as well as assist the decision-making as to when surgical intervention.
Finally, a careful analysis of the location, duration, and character of the joint symptoms and the appearance of the joints helps the doctor in diagnosing osteoarthritis. Bony enlargement of the joints from spur formations is characteristic of osteoarthritis. Therefore, Heberden’s nodes, Bouchard’s nodes, and bunions of the feet can help the doctor make a diagnosis of osteoarthritis.
How Can I Treat Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is treatable, and even somewhat preventable. The disease is more common with age and weight gain. We can’t avoid getting older, but to help protect your joints from this disease, engaging in regular exercise and keeping off the extra pounds is the best way to avoid Osteoarthritis. Regular exercise will help to keep the muscles around your joints strong, and staying at a healthy weight will help to keep stress (“wear and tear”) from affecting your joints too much.
Like we said before, though, negative health issues cannot always be avoided. If you already have Osteoarthritis, it’s important to know your treatment options, of which you have many.
Treating Osteoarthritis with Medication
The pain of Osteoarthritis can normally be managed with medication, either over-the-counter or prescription:
- NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs): medication such as ibuprofen and aspirin, which are normally easily available OTC. Higher-strength NSAIDs are prescribed by health care professionals.
- Side effects: stomach bleeding, increased risk for strokes, cardiovascular problems
- Acetaminophen: often preferred because they don’t have the risks related to NSAIDs
- Side effects: at high doses can harm the liver and kidneys
- Joint Injections: steroid shots can be injected into the joints for fast relief of pain with long-lasting effects
- Side effects: at high doses can harm the liver and kidneys
- Hyaluronic Acid: This acid is a lubricant and shock absorber that occurs naturally in joints, but people with Osteoarthritis have less than normal; it is injected into the joint to ease pain and help joints to move more smoothly
- Opioids: these are strong pain relievers that are prescribed by doctors; examples include: codeine and hydrocodone
- Antidepressants: these are recommended to treat Osteoarthritis pain, even in those who are not depressed
- How they work to relieve pain is not totally clear, but effects on brain chemicals are believed to play a role
- Side effects: drowsiness, blurred vision
Treating Osteoarthritis with Surgery
Most cases of Osteoarthritis do not require surgery, and it is normally suggested as a last resort. Surgery can help to improve joint alignment, ease of movement, and pain relief.
- Arthrocentesis is often performed in the doctor’s office. During arthrocentesis, a sterile needle is used to remove joint fluid for analysis. Joint fluid analysis is useful in excluding gout, infection, and other causes of inflammatory arthritis. Removal of joint fluid and injection of corticosteroids into the joints during arthrocentesis may help relieve pain, swelling, and inflammation.
- Arthroscopy is a surgical technique whereby a doctor inserts a viewing tube into the joint space. Abnormalities of and damage to the cartilage and ligaments can be detected and sometimes repaired through the arthroscope. If successful, patients can recover from the arthroscopic surgery much more quickly than from open joint surgery. In an Arthroscopy, a small cut is made into the affected joint. The doctor then removes loose pieces of cartilage, smooth out surfaces, or remove damaged tissues.
- Osteotomy: This surgery is meant to preserve the joints. A section of bone is cut and removed to improved alignment and stability.
- Joint fusion: The joint is completely removed and the bones are held together with help from screws, pins, and plates until they heal and fuse. The joint is no longer flexible.
- Joint replacement: In joint replacement surgery, the original joint is replaced with a plastic or metal version. Joints can be replaced partially instead of completely.
Treating Osteoarthritis with Alternative Remedies
Exploration of these remedies should be discussed with a doctor or health care professional, as they do not work for everyone.
- Acupuncture therapy
- Dietary supplements
- Helpful devices: braces, shoe inserts, and walking aids, which release stress and help with smooth movement
- Brace: redistributes weight to relieve joint stress
- Orthotic devices: correct knee imbalances
Contact an Osteoarthritis Specialist in Plano, Texas
If you have or think you may be suffering from Osteoarthritis, call the Pain Relief Center today to discuss treatment options. We will work hard to help to find the best treatment plans for you.