September is Arthritis Month. In this article, Almonte family physician Dr. Jody Murray talks about osteoarthritis, which is the most common form of the disease.
What is osteoarthritis?
“Arthritis usually refers to inflammation in a joint,” says Dr. Murray. “In osteoarthritis, you have the breakdown of cartilage in a joint, meaning bone rubs on bone.”
“Pain is the most common symptom,” says Dr. Murray. “There may also be swelling and deformity of the joint. People with osteoarthritis may also hear popping or crunching in their joints.” The joints affected most often are in the hands, knees, hips and spine.
“Osteoarthritis is usually thought of as a consequence of the normal aging process,” explains Dr. Murray. “However, genetics and inflammatory factors play a huge role. There can also be mechanical issues, such as the alignment of the joint.”
“We diagnose osteoarthritis based on clinical symptoms,” says Dr. Murray. “We consider other possible causes for the symptoms and some of the tests we order help rule them out. There is no specific test for osteoarthritis. X-rays may not detect early-stage osteoarthritis.”
“Non-medical treatment includes losing excess weight, exercise, physiotherapy and orthotics,” says Dr. Murray. “Medical treatment includes pain relievers, anti-inflammatory medication and injections into the affected joint. Surgical treatment involves replacing the joint.”
“Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight can help prevent osteoarthritis,” says Dr. Murray. “Low-impact exercise, such as swimming, walking and cycling is good, as are strengthening exercises such as Pilates or Tai Chi. Always warm up and stretch before exercising.
“If you are having pain and think it might be osteoarthritis, talk to your doctor,” says Dr. Murray.