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What is Osteoarthritis?

By Dr. Ramneek Mahajan in Orthopaedics & Joint Replacement

Mar 07 , 2022 | 3 min read

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common chronic joint condition. OA is also called wear-and-tear arthritis, degenerative arthritis, and degenerative joint disease.

A joint is where two bones come together. Cartilage is the protective tissue that covers the ends of the bones. With OA, this cartilage breaks down, causing the bones within the joint to rub together. This can cause pain, stiffness, and other symptoms.

OA can occur in any joint. However, the most commonly affected areas of the body include the:

Knees, hips, shoulder etc.

Osteoarthritis causes

Osteoarthritis (OA) is caused by cumulative effect over time, which is why age is one of the main causes of the joint damage leading to OA. The older you are the more repetitive stress you’ve had on your joints.

Other causes of joint damage include:

  • Past injury, such as torn cartilage, dislocated joints, or ligament injuries
  • Joint malformation
  • Infection 
  • Obesity
  • Poor Postures

Risk Factors

Increase your chances of developing OA. 

  1. Having family history 
  2. Women having higher rates of OA than men Specially after menopause
  3. Occupation Hazard: Job like involves kneeling, climbing, heavy lifting, or similar actions like cross leg sitting, squatting , excessive use of stairs etc. a history of injury
  4. Overweight or having obesity
  5. Having another medical condition such as diabetes or a different type of arthritis like Rheumatoid arthritis.

Is the OA is preventable?

Since it's a life style induced, age related wear and tear of joint so we can't prevent it completely but of course, we can slow down the progress of disease by following advice:

  1. Regular visits to qualified Orthopaedic surgeon so we can detect it at early stage of disease and start the treatment with preventive measures.
  2. Exercises: Strengthens the muscles around your joints and may help relieve stiffness. Aim for at least 20 to 30 minutes of physical movement, at least every other day. Choose gentle, low impact activities, such as walking or swimming. Tai chi and yoga can also improve joint flexibility and help with pain management.
  3. Weight management: by reduction of some pounds weight we can reduce the stress over the joint.
  4. Diet: Add calcium and vitamin D reach diet with less fat, with adequate hydration helps in improving the bone stocks.
  5. Heat and cold therapy:You can experiment with heat or cold therapy to relieve muscle pain and stiffness. Apply a hot or cold compress to sore joints for 15 to 20 minutes, several times per day.
  6. Intra articular Injection: like visco supplements, corticosteroids and blood derived product can help in OA, if other conservative methods are not worked.

What is the right time to undergo knee replacement? 

This is big question for an orthopaedic surgeon! Usually above 50- 55 years of age is ideal for replacement. That does not mean that patients below 40 years of age should continue to suffer even if they have significant pain because of arthritis. Inflammatory arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis can damage the joint at a relatively young age and cause serious disability. This may need a knee replacement at an early age.

In younger patients generally Simpler technically demanding procedures like cartilage regeneration surgeries are done with the help of keyhole made into the joint and cartilage harvested and grown in the lab. Other methods like use of visco supplements or blood derived product like PRP or with life style modification or by doing physiotherapy we can delay the replacement in younger patients.

But age is not only a factor that can decide the time of replacement, clinical and radiology examination of joint by qualified Orthopaedic surgeon is the main key for deciding the timing of replacement surgery. It can happen in younger age or may not be needed after 70 years of age so it's all depends on the severity of disease so regular visits to orthopaedic surgeon and health check-up followed by clinical and radiological assessment is gold standard for deciding the timing of replacement.