About This Condition
Osteoarthritis is a chronic disease of the joints, especially the weight-bearing joints that develops when the linings of joints degenerate, leading to lipping and spurring of bone, pain, and decreased mobility and function.
Osteoarthritis is a universal consequence of aging among animals with a bony skeleton. Many factors contribute to the development of osteoarthritis; the disease is primarily associated with aging and injury and was once called “wear-and-tear” arthritis. Osteoarthritis may occur secondary to many other conditions. However, in most cases, the true cause of osteoarthritis is unknown.
The onset of osteoarthritis is gradual and most often affects the hips, knees, fingers, and spine, although other joints also may be involved. Pain is the main symptom, which usually worsens with exercise and is relieved by rest. Morning stiffness is also common and diminishes with movement. As osteoarthritis progresses, joint motion is lost, and tenderness and grating sensations may develop. Osteoarthritis of the spine may lead to shooting pains down the arms or legs.
Treatment designed to relieve osteoarthritis symptoms includes the use of hot soaks, warm paraffin applications, heating pads, and joint support devices.
Reducing Your Risk
To help keep you in top health, our experts recommend these steps:
- Avoid extra weight. Maintaining a healthy body weight is one of the most important things you can do to minimize osteoarthritis risk. Making sensible, sustainable diet changes you can live with, even if these just result in a small weight loss, will put you on the path to better joint health. Select Eating Right, above, for more information.
- Support your joints. Some dietary supplements, such as a combination of glucosamine and chondroitin, supply the materials your body needs to build new, healthy joint tissue. This may help keep joints healthy before osteoarthritis sets in or becomes severe. Select Vitamins, above, for more information.
- Use medications wisely. If you are taking over-the-counter drugs as needed for pain rather than on a regular schedule, remember that pain medications work best if they are used at the first signs of pain. Select Medicines, above, for more drug-nutrient interactions and other safety information.
- Mobilize your motivation. Moderate, regular physical activity, such as brisk walking, is important for maintaining joint health. Consider a tool, such as a pedometer, to help you get more steps into everyday. Select personal care for more ideas on tools for a healthier life.
Living With It
Our experts recommend the following top tips to help soothe your joints:
- Assess allergies. Some food allergies and sensitivities worsen arthritis symptoms. If other therapies are unsuccessful in relieving symptoms, talk to your doctor about identifying and eliminating possible food allergies. Select Eating Right, above, for more information.
- Spice it up. Ginger, taken orally, and cayenne pepper, applied topically over the joint area, both have been shown to relieve osteoarthritis pain for some people. To learn more about these and other supplement options, select Vitamins, above.
- Master your medications. If you use medications to manage osteoarthritis pain, ask your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist for a complete explanation of how and when to take them, and whether they are safe used in conjunction with other over-the-counter and prescription medications. Medicines, above, will give you an introduction to medications commonly used to manage osteoarthritis pain.
- Use tools of the trade. Finding the right tools to manage your condition is important. A pedometer can be a useful way to motivate yourself to walk more, and if needed, canes and other mobility aids can significantly increase your ability to get around with less pain. Select Personal Care, above, for more ideas on tools for a healthier life.