Osteoarthritis is the deterioration of a joint, resulting in pain, swelling, and inflammation, along with a variety of other symptoms. Osteoarthritis can make daily tasks challenging. Unfortunately, there is no cure. But, if caught early, symptoms can be significantly reduced. As for treatment, both surgical and nonsurgical options are available.
A joint is the meeting point of two bones. For example, the hip joint is where the top of the thighbone (femur) meets the concave part of the pelvis, and the knee joint is where the lower leg joints (tibia and fibula) meets the thighbone (femur). A healthy joint will glide smoothly without pain due to the smooth, elastic tissue (articular cartilage) covering the ends of the bones that make up the joint.
Osteoarthritis occurs when the articular cartilage in the joint deteriorates due to the overuse of the joint. This deterioration results in pain, stiffness, and inflammation that will increase over time, making it more difficult to do daily activates that were once easy. Osteoarthritis develops slowly and is most common in people of middle age and older, and unfortunately has no cure. Even though there is no cure, there are many treatment options available to manage pain, allowing people with osteoarthritis to stay active.
Symptoms for osteoarthritis can range from mild to disabling and can affect any joint in the body. Symptoms of osteoarthritis include:
- Sore or stiff joints after inactivity or overuse.
- Pain that worsens after activity or toward the end of the day.
- Clicking or cracking sound when a joint bends.
- Limited range of motion or stiffness that goes away after movement.
- Mild swelling around a joint.
- Bone growths (bone spurs) in the fingers.
Your Florida Orthopaedic Institute physician will take a look at your symptoms and medical history to help determine if you have osteoarthritis. They will examine the affected joint to check for pain or restricted motion, as well as creaking or grinding noises, muscle loss and signs of injury to muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Your physician will also ask:
- Has the joint has ever been injured?
- When did the pain begin?
- If the pain is continuous?
- Does the pain occur in other parts of the body?
Some tests may also be done to confirm that you have osteoarthritis and not a different condition. These tests include:
- X-rays. Shows the extent of the joint deterioration that causes osteoarthritis.
- Blood tests. Helps rule out other diseases that may cause similar symptoms to osteoarthritis.
Even though osteoarthritis cannot be cured, many surgical and nonsurgical options can help eliminate symptoms. Surgical procedures will be recommended if nonsurgical treatments have been exhausted and no improvement has occurred.
Early nonsurgical treatment can help maintain joint mobility, relieve pain and improve strength. While there are many different treatments plans available, most programs combine medication, physical therapy, and lifestyle changes.
- Medications. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as Advil and Motrin (ibuprofen) or Aleve (naproxen) may be recommended to help reduce inflammation. Corticosteroids (strong anti-inflammatory agents) may also be used. They are injected directly into the joint and offer short-term pain and swelling relief.
- Physical Therapy. The purpose of physical therapy for osteoarthritis is to improve flexibility, reduce pain, increase the range of motion and strengthen the joint through a balanced fitness program and physical or occupational therapy. Assistive or supportive devices may be needed as well as ice or heat to help with inflammation and pain.
- Lifestyle changes. An excellent way to avoid provoking osteoarthritis is by making lifestyle changes. These lifestyle changes may include switching from high-impact activities to low-impact exercises. Additionally, a weight loss program may be necessary if osteoarthritis affects weight-bearing joints such as the knee, hip, spine or ankle.
Your Florida Orthopaedic Institute physician can determine the best treatment plan for you.
If nonsurgical treatments are unsuccessful, surgery may be recommended. The decision on surgery depends on the patient’s age and activity level, the condition of the affected joint and the extent to which osteoarthritis has progressed. There are several types of procedures used to treat osteoarthritis. These procedures include:
- Joint Fusion. The bones making up the joint are fused together, and held together during the healing process with pins, plates, screws or rods, eliminating the joints’ flexibility.
- Joint Replacement. The original joint is replaced with an artificial one made with metal or plastic components.
- Arthroscopy. A small, flexible, fiber-optic camera (arthroscope) removes bone spurs, cysts, damaged lining, or loose fragments in the joint. The arthroscope allows for a smaller cut to be made, with faster recovery times.
- Osteotomy. The long bones of the leg or arm are readjusted to lessen the pressure being applied to the joint.
Contact your Florida Orthopaedic Institute physician to learn more about Osteoarthritis.