Osteoarthritis is the most common cause of joint pain. X-rays will show Osteoarthritis in most people over 50 and in around 80% of people over 70.
Osteoarthritis most commonly affects the hands, knees, hips and back. It causes joint pain, stiffness, restriction of movement and a creaking noise known as Crepitus.
Some research suggests that a family history may predispose a person to osteoarthritis but other risk factors, such as being overweight or as a secondary consequence of a previous joint injury (for example a cartilage tear or ligament injury in the knee), are much more likely to cause Osteoarthritis.
The surfaces of joints are covered by a thin layer of super smooth Hyaline cartilage that allows friction free movement of joints. The Hyaline cartilage can be damaged by trauma or excessive loading of the joint. It can become roughened and with further stress on the joint the Hyaline cartilage can become totally worn.
This exposes the underlying bone at the joint surface. This bone itself becomes damaged due to joint loading, with changes to its blood supply and the formation of bone cysts.
Further tissue damage and increased joint loading cause flare ups of inflammation in the joint that leads to joint swelling and pain. These symptoms prevent normal joint use and lead to muscle wastage around the joint. This further increases loading on the joint surfaces and causes more joint damage.
Consult an Orthopaedic Consultant. Early treatment may be able to slow the progression of Osteoarthritis. Painful flare ups can be treated with anti-inflammatory medication prescribed by a doctor. Hot and cold therapy is also helpful for symptom relief.
Avoid putting on excessive weight. Obesity increases stress on the joint surfaces and accelerates the progression of Osteoarthritis.
Some research suggests that increased intake of dietary antioxidants such as vitamins C and E might protect against Osteoarthritis by improving the quality of Hyaline cartilage.
Exercise and maintain an active lifestyle following advice from a Charted Physiotherapist. By maintaining muscle function the joints are protected and movement helps to prevent joint stiffness.