DEFINITION--Degeneration of cartilage at a joint and growth of bone
"spurs" that inflame surrounding tissue.
BODY PARTS INVOLVED--All joints, but most common in fingers, feet, knees, hips
SEX OR AGE MOST AFFECTED--Adults over 45.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
- Joint stiffness and pain, including backache. Weather changes, especially cold, damp
weather, may increase aching.
- Limited movement and loss of dexterity in affected joints.
- No redness, heat or fever in joints (usually).
- Swelling of affected joints (sometimes), especially finger joints.
- Cracking or grating sounds with joint movement (sometimes).
CAUSES--Exact cause is unknown. Appears to be a combination or interaction of
mechanical, biologic, biochemical, inflammatory and immunologic factors.
RISK INCREASES WITH
- Persons with occupations that put stress on joints.
- Stress on joints caused by activity and aging. Most people over age 50 have some
- Injury to the joint lining.
HOW TO PREVENT
- Maintain a normal weight for your height and body structure.
- Be physically active, but avoid activities that lead to joint injury, especially after
age 40. Try regular stretching or yoga exercises.
What To Expect
- Medical history and exam by a doctor.
- Laboratory blood studies to rule out inflammatory forms of arthritis.
- X-rays of painful joints.
APPROPRIATE HEALTH CARE
- Self-care after diagnosis.
- Doctor's treatment.
- An overall treatment plan will involve understanding the disorder, rehabilitation,
activities of daily living and medications.
- Acupuncture (sometimes).
- Surgery for osteoarthritis includes arthroplasty (joint replacement) and arthrodesis
(immobilization of a joint).
- Crippling (sometimes).
- Muscles around affected joints may become smaller and weaker because of decreased use.
- Tends to be progressive.
PROBABLE OUTCOME--Symptoms can usually be relieved, but joint changes are
permanent. Pain may begin as a minor irritant, but it can become severe enough to
interfere with daily activities and sleep.
How To Treat
- To relieve pain, apply heat to painful and stiff joints for 20 minutes 2 or 3 times a
day. Use hot towels, hot tubs, infrared heat lamps, electric heating pads or deep-heating
ointments or lotions. Swim often in a heated pool or spa.
- If osteoarthritis of the neck causes pain in the arms, wear a soft, immobilizing collar
- Massage the muscles around painful joints. Massaging the joint itself is not helpful.
- If osteoarthritis affects the spine, sleep on your back on a very firm mattress or place
3/4-inch plywood between your box spring and mattress. Waterbeds help some people.
- Avoid chilling. Wear thermal underwear or avoid outdoor activity in cold weather.
- Keep a positive outlook on life. Remain active to prevent wasting of muscles.
MEDICATION--Your doctor may prescribe:
- Aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or acetominophen for pain.
- Cortisone injections into painful, stiff joints. These may provide temporary relief.
- Other medications as needed.
- Rest is important only during acute phases when joints are very painful. Resume normal
activity as soon as symptoms improve.
- Physical therapy for muscle and joint rehabilitation (severe cases only).
- May need to protect joints from overuse (crutches, cane, walker, elastic knee support).
DIET--If you are overweight, lose weight (see Weight Loss Diet in Appendix).
Call Your Doctor If
- You have joint pain or stiffness.
- New, unexplained symptoms develop.