The Origins of Osteoarthritis
Time and trauma can both take a toll on joints, resulting in damaged cartilage and osteoarthritis. The painful, sometimes disabling condition impacts an estimated 16 million Americans.
Treatment options range from nonprescription medicines to exercise, injections, arthroscopic cleansing of the joint space, physical therapy and, in some cases, total joint replacement, according to Dr. Scott Johnson, who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation for The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital (TOSH) ...
Osteoarthritis is diagnosed with a thorough physical examination and imaging studies. X-rays, bone scans, CT scans and magnetic resonance imaging are all options that aid diagnosis, Johnson said. They can show bone spurs, worn-down cartilage, and loss of bone space.
The degeneration can attack any joint, but is commonly found in fingers, the spine and weight-bearing joints like the hips and knees, he said. Some people develop it in the shoulder. Any joint can be affected.
While it's primarily a result of aging, cartilage deterioration can also follow injuries, sometimes many years down the road. Some families have a genetic tendency to the condition, which can also be caused by defective cartilage, malalignment, excess weight and underlying diseases. And other conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, gout and pseudo gout may change the normal structure and foundation of cartilage to cause osteoarthritis. Whatever the cause, loss of the cartilage cushion between the bones may lead to painful bone-on-bone grinding that's "miserable," Johnson said.
One of the first suggestions a doctor might make is weight loss, if the patient is heavy. Losing unneeded pounds reduces the stress on joints. Regular exercise and a healthy diet are crucial, as well.