What is it? What can be done?
Osteoarthritis is simply defined as the wearing down of the bone surfaces that make up a joint. Every joint in your body is comprised of at least 2 bones that slide and glide across each other. This gives you the ability to move and bend your body through space.
If you were to open up one of your joints to have a look inside, you would notice that each bone in that joint is lined with a substance called cartilage. This lining of cartilage in your joint allows for easy and friction free movement of your joint. Cartilage lining each bone will naturally wear down over time with repeated use of your joint. Eventually it will begin to lose its originally “smooth surface“. This process is know as joint degeneration. As it continues, swelling can be produced in the joint due to the rougher surfaces of your bones “rubbing” together as they move. This process will eventually result in a loss of range of motion, as well as pain, stiffness and continued inflammation.
Where Does Osteoarthritis Occur?
Osteoarthritis can occur in any joint of your body. However it is frequently seen in the weight bearing (or load bearing) joints of your body such as your knees, hips and throughout your spine. Osteoarthritis also frequently occurs in the small joints of the hands and in your shoulders. This is due to to the high frequency we use our hands and arms to accomplish tasks throughout each day.
All the joints in your body are susceptible to developing Osteoarthritis. For this reason it is very important to recognise the symptoms of Osteoarthritis early, and form a plan of attack! We want to address this issue before it becomes a much bigger problem!
What are the Symptoms of Osteoarthritis?
The symptoms of Osteoarthritis typically vary from person to person, and usually depend on how severe the degeneration of each individual joint is.
The most common symptoms include:
- Stiffness felt in your joints:
- This is typically felt after periods of inactivity, when you haven’t moved your joints for a while (ie. after sleeping, or periods of prolonged sitting).
- Pain during movement or after movement:
- For example, pain in your knees while walking, or directly following the completion of walking.
- Joint tenderness:
- You will notice that if you push on your joint gently, you may feel tenderness and warmth coming from the area around your joint. This is a direct result of inflammation inside your joint produced as the surfaces “rub” together with movement.
- Grating or crackling sensations in your joints:
- Once again, this would be a result of the surfaces of your joint rubbing together.
- Decreased or limited range of movement of your joints:
- This is due to a gradual decrease in the space between the bones that make up each individual joint. Less space between each bone means less movement available for that joint!
- Muscle weakness in the muscles that surround your joint may also be present and make activities such as walking, standing, getting up from a chair, or reaching overhead difficult.
Stay tuned for Part 2 to learn about the stages of Osteoarthritis and how it can be treated!