Osteoarthritis: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatments

There are more than 100 types of arthritis, with 1 in every 5 Canadians experiencing the condition in some form. The most common type is osteoarthritis, also known as the general “wear and tear” arthritis.
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If you’re experiencing joint issues and suspect you might have this condition, it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis to pursue proper treatment. In the meantime, here are some facts about osteoarthritis.

What Are the Symptoms of Osteoarthritis?

Chronic joint pain is the telltale symptom of osteoarthritis. If you experience discomfort in your hands, hips, and knees, and your joints feel stiff after sleeping or inactivity, it could be due to osteoarthritis.

Other symptoms of the condition include mild swelling, reduced flexibility, bone spurs, and grating or popping sound in the joints.

Causes

Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage which cushions the ends of joints wears away. There are several factors which can lead to the condition, including general aging and genetics. It can also be acquired through injury while playing sports or putting repetitive stress on a joint. Obesity is also another cause, as added weight can put stress on weight-bearing joints such as the hips and knees.

Treatments

Like many other degenerative conditions, there is currently no known cure for osteoarthritis. With that said, it’s still possible to control symptoms and optimize your quality of life through osteoarthritis treatment. Here are a few approaches your doctor may recommend:

  • Physical Activity – Low-impact activities that are easy on the joints such as walking, swimming, yoga, and dancing can help promote flexibility and control pain. Avoid any exercise that feels painful, however. 
  • Medication – Over-the-counter NSAIDs and naproxen sodium help relieve chronic pain. NSAIDs are also available in gel form and can be applied directly to the affected joints.
  • Weight Management – Commit to a healthy diet and regular exercise to lose or maintain weight. Achieving your ideal weight will lessen the load on your joints and slow the progression of osteoarthritis.
  • Quality Sleep – The pain from osteoarthritis may keep you up at night, but it’s important that you get enough sleep. Maintain a regular sleeping schedule to give your joints a much-needed rest. Consider establishing a soothing bedtime routine to encourage sleep, such as a warm bath or meditation. 
  • Physiotherapy – Physiotherapists can apply a range of treatments to help with osteoarthritis, including manual therapy to restore functional movement without pain and individualized exercise programs.  

Despite the lack of a cure, osteoarthritis treatments can help you minimize discomfort and promote optimal daily functioning so you can continue leading an active, independent lifestyle.

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