Relieve the Aches and Pains of Osteoarthritis
Do you wake up in the morning feeling stiff and achy? Is it painful to bend down and tie your shoes? Can you really ‘feel it in your bones’ when the weather is about to change? Chances are your joints are not what they used to be. And chances are you might have osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis. It affects nearly 21 million Americans and can get some people as early as their 20s or 30s. The possibility of developing this form of ‘wear and tear’ arthritis greatly increases with age. Most men and women over the age of 60 have osteoarthritis to some degree. After age 50 women are more likely than men to develop osteoarthritis.
Resulting from the breakage of cartilage in the joints, the initial symptoms of osteoarthritis – joint stiffness and discomfort – are usually mild. Eventually, as the cartilage breaks down, the bones lose their cushioning and begin to rub together. This creates friction, tenderness and painful joints. Any joint is susceptible to OA but it usually occurs in the weight bearing joints – like the hips, knees and spine. It is also common in the ankles, feet, fingers, and neck. Without healthy cartilage to act as a shock absorber, the simplest movement can cause a sharp pain. A pain that can be very difficult to live with.
What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis?
Symptoms of OA develop gradually. You may have aching and sore joints, especially with movement (bending at the knees). You may experience pain from overuse (lifting or standing) or after long periods of inactivity (after sitting or in the morning). Some outward symptoms are bony enlargement at the middle and end joints of the fingers and swollen joints.
The causes are numerous. Years of use will gradually break down healthy cartilage. Age, excess body weight, heredity, defects in joints or cartilage, joint injuries or repetitive movements can all contribute to OA. Diagnosis is based on your description of symptoms, the location and pattern of pain and a physical exam. Your doctor may also order an X-ray which can show joint damage and also determine if you have any other types of arthritis. Blood tests and tests of the joint fluid may also be needed.
The treatment your doctor prescribes will depend on several factors – your age, activity level, occupation, overall health, medical history, location of OA and the severity of your OA. Physical therapy is a recommended treatment. With closely monitored muscle strengthening exercises, low impact exercises, weight control, the use of hot and cold compresses, and oral pain relievers you can do a lot to alleviate the pain associated with OA. If your doctor thinks further treatment is necessary, injections into the joints, the use of crutches or a cane, and surgery are also available.
If you have severe joint pain or stiffness, give Dr. Hessel a call. Dr. Hessel and her staff want you to feel great from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed. If you are living with osteoarthritis or suspect you are experiencing its symptoms it is time to do something about it. You can catch OA in the beginning and work to lessen its effects on your body. If you are coming in for a check-up, or just need Dr. Hessel’s advice, she’s here to help guide you in your journey to better joint health. The weather is changing and spring is just around the corner so make sure your body is ready to enjoy it!
Further recommendations to help relieve and even reverse the effects of Osteoarthritis
- Heat from a compress, hot bath, shower or a dip in a hot tub can relax your joints and muscles and alleviate pain.
- Ice packs can reduce swelling in joints.
- Weight loss can help relieve stress and pressure from your joints.
- Losing weight (usually 11 pounds) and maintaining ideal weight can help prevent OA of the knee and hip and decrease its rate of progression once it becomes noticeable.
- Exercise is important to strengthen muscles and joints and to improve joint movement.
- Exercises that are less stressful on your joints are swimming, walking, water aerobics, bicycling, yoga and Tai Chi.
- Aim for 30 minutes of low impact exercise most days of the week.
- Vitamin C may minimize cartilage loss and slow OA. It can enhance tissue repair. It is found in supplements, berries, broccoli, cantaloupe, citrus fruits and peppers.
- Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant and may help your healthy cartilage fight off OA. It can be found in supplement form and in avocados, nuts, olive oil and seeds.
- Vitamin D keeps bones strong – it is found in milk and fatty fish.
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids are anti-inflammatory fats that may improve morning stiffness, joint tenderness and fatigue. Good sources are fatty fish and shellfish.
- The spices ginger and turmeric are anti-inflammatory and can lessen pain and swelling of the joints.