What Is Osteoarthritis?

'Understanding Osteoarthritis And A Quick Diagnosis Is The Key To Managing It'

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What is osteoarthritis? What causes osteoarthritis and what can treat osteoarthritis? Difficult questions, complex answers. This article provides all the background – so you can get an early diagnosis and make the best treatment choices…

If you are reading this, then the chances are you either think you may have early-stage osteoarthritis or you know someone who has it.

Imagine then, if you can, fighting a condition without cure and with a catch 22 that all the treatments are designed to help you get out living life, but the more ‘living life’ you do, the worse your osteoarthritis might get?

It is not an easy scenario facing any osteoarthritis sufferer, especially as many people still think arthritis is just part of growing old and so do not manage the condition anywhere near as well as they could. Hopefully, this is not you.

Indeed, with all the developments in treatments, despite some gaps in research, there is still hope. The key really is just how quickly you can get diagnosed and start to manage your condition.

What Is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is not the easiest disease to define, let alone fully answer ‘what is osteoarthrtitis?’ Wikipedia has a go by describing it as

“a type of joint disease that results from breakdown of joint cartilage and underlying bone.”

Traditionally, osteoarthritis was believed to be the inevitable result of wearing down cartilage between the joints. Something that was just to be accepted

The truth is that actually there is no single accepted definition, as many sources still argue just how much of a role various symptoms actually play. Indeed, as Kraus et al noted, there really should be one single, universal definition of osteoarthritis but to date, no such thing exists.

Instead osteoarthritis is defined by it’s key features – degenerative changes in the cartilage of at least one joint, aligned to the overgrowth of adjacent bone resulting in stiffness, pain, swelling and loss of motion within attacked joints.

In a healthy joint, cartilage acts like a rubbery, gliding surface for every joint. Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage starts to break down. As the cartilage gets thinner, bones start to develop growths called ‘spurs’.

Bits of bone then start to break off and further inhibit the joints movement, while at the same time the body reacts by producing inflammation (containing proteins) – designed to help the wound that in reality, further damage the remaining cartilage causing extra discomfort.

Eventually, the cartilage wears away altogether and you are left with bone rubbing on bone – also known as absolute agony.

It typically affects the fingers or knees first, but can attack your back, neck, toes (very popular) and hips.

What Is Osteoarthritis? A diagram comparing the differences between three knee joints - one a healthy joint, one with osteoarthritis and one with rheumatoid arthritis.
The difference is the damage directly to the cartilage with osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disease where the bodies’ own white blood cells attack the joint.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and affects over 30 million people in America, according to the Centre For Disease Control and Prevention. It typically affects the elderly most frequently, with people over the age of 65 most likely to be affected.

How Do I Know If I Have Osteoarthritis?

The first you are likely to feel is a toothache-type of feeling in your joints. You may notice it seems to get worse if you wear uncomfortable footwear or when its cold and damp. If your joint(s) start to ache at night for more than a couple of days without an obvious cause then it worth a trip to your doctor.

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Causes of Osteoarthritis

As touched on briefly, osteoarthritis has traditionally always been referred to as an inevitable disease of growing old, although in actual fact it is a disease just as much as any other disease and does not have to be as inevitable as first thought.

There however certain factors that make you much more likely to develop it in later life –

  1. Repetitive Injury. Repeatedly tearing a ligament or tendon playing a particular sport can lead to osteoarthritis. Footballers that tear their hamstrings or ligaments in their ankles can recover and re-damage themselves multiple times when they are young and start suffering even before they officially retire.
  2. Genes. While you are more likely to develop osteoarthritis as you get older, it is also possible to start suffering with it from as early as age 20 – if you are carrying it in your genes.

There are several reasons why you might inherit a tendency towards developing osteoarthritis from your parents.

The first is a gene known as FAAH, that has been found to be much higher in people with osteoarthritis than people without.

The second potential genetic issue that could leave you vulnerable to osteoarthritis is a defect in your bodies’ ability to produce collagen. Collagen is the protein that goes into building the cartilage around your joints. Poor collagen production = poor cartilage build up and much less to lose before your osteoarthritis becomes extremely painful.

The final genetic trait is the possibility that your bones do not fit together as a joint properly. As a result, there is more pressure on the cartilage in certain points ad it wears away much faster than it should.

  1. Your Bodyweight. There are two main theories as to why your bodyweight can trigger osteoarthirits.

The first is the traditional idea that increasing your weight, increases the strain on the joints and pressure on the cartilage. In turn, this grinds away the cartilage much faster.

However, this doesn’t explain why more overweight people develop osteoarthritis in the hands and has led to further research that now links fat tissue with an increase in cytokines (inflammatory chemicals that can damage joints).

The truth is the jury is still out as to exactly why being verweight makes you much more likely to develop osteoarthritis, but the fact is it does.

  1. Overuse. This doesn’t have to be because of actual injury. Dart players and writers are both known to develop osteoarthritis in the elbows and wrists because of the repeated stress of overuse.
  2. Age. Statistically, the chances of yo developing osteoarthritis increases considerably as you get older.
  3. Bone Deformities. This can be for one of two reasons – firstly the deformity may cause an incorrect weight distribution (in the knees or ankles for example) that means normal activities are entirely focused on one point that does wears out the cartilage at that pressure point fast.

The second reason is that some people can actually be born with a deformity in their bone cartilage. This could mean it is already super-thin to begin with or fragile and therefore more susceptible to damage.  

  1. Joint Injuries. Injuries such as those from playing sport can greatly speed up the onset of osteoarthritis in that particular joint.
  2. Various Metabolic Diseases. Hemochromatosis (a disease where your body produces too much iron) and even diabetes can both cause premature breakdown of the cartilage.
  3. Occupation. By virtue of the fact that some jobs involve more repetitive actions than others, certain occupations have a much higher
  4. Having legs of different lengths. Increase the tension on one leg over the other, resulting in pain and ultimately a much higher chance of osteoarthritis.
  5. Paget’s Disease. This is considered a disease of the elderly whereby bone tissue is fundamentally altered, causing severe pain and sometimes ending in osteoarthritis.
  6. Gout or rheumatoid arthritis. Both inflammatory diseases, although completely different to osteoarthritis, (gout being caused by a uric acid imbalance and RA being an autoimmune disease) can cause an imbalance of weight that actually causes osteoarthritis to develop.
  7. You are statistically more likely to develop OA if you are a woman.

Symptoms Of Osteoarthritis

The Symptoms of your osteoarthritis really depend on where you are suffering with it. This is why we have created separate articles on ‘osteoarthritis in the knees’ and so on (see menu above),

There are however, a number of generic symptoms that affect most osteoarthritis sufferers. These are –

  1. Pain and Stiffness. Especially in the early morning or following a period of reasonably prolonged rest.
  2. Swollen Joints.
  3. Stiff Joints
  4. Bony growths protruding around the edges of joints.
  5. Pain that gets progressively worse as your day goes on
  6. A cracking sound when you move a joint quickly.
  7. Warmth and tenderness in the joint
  8. Mild inflammation around the joints (also known as synovitis). You may not notice this with the human eye from the outside.
  9. A loss of muscle bulk around the joint
  10. Joint Instability (for example you knees may buckle suddenly)

The severity of your symptoms can vary greatly both from one person to another and from day to day.

On good days in the early stages you may not even notice your osteoarthritis while on bad days, you may not be able to do any of the normal day to day activities that you are used to carrying out.

FALLS

When you suffer with osteoarthritis, it is not just the crippling pain that can be a huge problem for you. Osteoarthritis is also associated with a greatly increased risk of falls.

Studies suggest an increased risk of around 30% for your likelihood to have a fall and you are typically about 20% more likely to fracture a bone from that fall.

Falling is more likely with osteoarthritis because of the reduced muscle function, weakness and impaired balance that is common with this condition.

There is also the very real risk of side effects from the various medications available contributing to a feeling of being unbalanced and dizzy.

Osteoarthritis Diagnosis

Osteoarthritis should always be diagnosed officially by a doctor at a face to face consultation. Be very wary of any internet ‘doctors’ claiming to offer diagnosis online.

On meeting your local doctor they will most likely carry out the following 4 key stages in diagnosing osteoarthritis –

  1. A Review Of Your Health And Current Symptoms.

In this first part, your doctor will need to know….

A full decription of your current symptoms – where and when you feel the pain and when it is felt most acutely.

Information on approximately when the symptoms began and what seemed to trigger them

A list of any over the counter medications you may have tried or alternative therapies used to combat your early symptoms and what the effects were.

A thorough description of how the symptoms currently affect daily activities.

A full location of any pains or stiffness.

A history of any other medical conditions that you may have and any medications that you are on to treat them.

  1. A Full Physical Examination.

The doctor will seek to examine the full range of motion of any of your affected joints and assess, with your help, just how painful each movement is. They will also be looking for areas of potential joint damage and may want to look further at your neck and spine (for correct alignment), even if they are seemingly not affected at the time.

In trying to reach an accurate diagnosis, it is likely your doctor will looking for –

– if your joint pain get worse the more you use your joints

– if your stiffness in the morning lasts LESS than 30 minutes

– joints appearing larger than normal or more knobbly than expected

– A grating sensation when moving your joints

– A limited range of movement in your joints

– Muscle wastage or weakness

– Extreme tenderness around certain joints (not evenly distributed)

– Increased pain after resting a joint

– A consideration will then be made of your age, together with the answers you gave in the first discussion and a likelihood of osteoarthritis will be created.

  1. Diagnostic Tests.

If your doctor suspects osteoarthritis, then they are likely to use one or all of the following tests to try and confirm their diagnosis.

In each case, the tests are carried out for two key reasons – both to rule in the likelihood of osteoarthritis and to rule out the possibility of other similar presenting but very different conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.

Joint Aspiration.

Joint aspiration is when a doctor withdraws fluid from around an infected joint and examines the fluid for the presence of crystals associated with osteoarthritis. This is much more effective than blood tests for arthritis and, if nothing else, should rule out other forms of arthritis as the likely culprit.

Joint aspiration is often the first process to be tried as it is the cheapest, although some doctors will just go straight to an x-ray to confirm the diagnosis and not try this at all.

X-Ray.

X-rays are well accepted as a good method of seeing if your joints have indeed eroded and therefore if osteoarthritis is the correct diagnosis. You can’t actually view the cartilage itself on an x-ray, but you can tell it’s status by a narrowing of the space between the joints under examination.

MRI

If an x-ray is not entirely clear, then an MRI scan (magnetic resource imaging) may be used. These are more expensive but produce a much better image as they can produce images of both the bone and soft tissue. This is easy then to spot the various abnormalities indicative of osteoarthritis that would not be seen with an x-ray.

Osteoarthritis Treatment

Osteoarthritis is another long-term, chronic disease without a cure. Similar to other conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or fibromyalgia, treatment revolves around weakening the impact of symptoms and slowing their progression.

This can be done in many ways – some are very specific to different parts of your body, like special gloves for your hands and others are more general such as getting exercise to strengthen muscles and support your joints.

We look at all your individual treatment options under each area ‘osteoarthritis in the hands’ etc, but there are a number of general treatments that we’ll cover here.

These include –

1. Exercise.

Always one of my recommendations to any arthritis sufferer is to keep moving. Your natural instinct in response to any form of pain is of course to do exactly the opposite, but exercise is essential in reducing your pain.

It does this for two reasons – firstly the act of exercising stimulates the release of endorphins that help you feel mentally better and mask (to some extent) the ongoing signals of pain.

Secondly, if you have painful joints, the worst thing you can do in the long run is allow the muscles around them to sit idle and waste away. Exercise builds and tones muscles which in turn helps them to support your weakening joints.

Exercises that involves stretching or even just casual walks with family every day can make a huge difference.

There are plenty of low impact exercise classes or at-home tutorials that you can get in to. Similarly, use of an exercise bike or walker can all give you crucial exercise without impact on your affected joints.

If you suffer with new pain during or after exercising, then just stop, have a couple of days with only very light exercise and gradually build up your routines again.

Exercise is recommended for at least 150 minutes a week at moderate intensity for arthritis sufferers (according to The Center For Disease Control and Prevention). 

2. Losing Weight.

It follows that any excess weight that you be carrying is not only likely to increase the burden on your sore joints, but also inhibit your ability to build the supporting muscle around your joints.

Again, this may seem extremely difficult – suggesting that you exercise more and eat less, when all you want is an end to the constant throbbing pain, but losing weight and getting fit really will help greatly with the symptoms of osteoarthritis.

3. Hot and Cold Therapy.

This is one of the most accepted methods of relieving muscle pain there is.

4. Stretching.

Even just performing a series of stretches before you get up in the morning, could make a big difference to your flexibility and the suppleness of your body. This will then compensate for stiffened joints and allow you a much greater range of movement.

5. Tai Chi.

Tai Chi combines both low impact exercise and stretching to get you feeling good and in control.

6. Increased Sleep.

Sleep reduces tension and stress, the rest can reduce inflammation in your muscles and if you can get ‘deep sleep’ your feelings of pain will be greatly reduced.

7. Yoga.

Similar to Tai Chi, but with a much greater emphasis on the stretching, yoga can really help to keep your body flexible despite the stiffness of osteoarthritis.

8. Wearing Suitable Footwear.

If you have osteoarthritis then the chances are your walking style is unbalanced – either favouring trying to protect a foot/ knee or that suffers more or you’ve always been slightly tilted and that is why you now suffer with pain.

9. Massage Therapy.

Another favourite for the release and relaxation of painful muscles. Massage therapy is a great one to learn with a partner at home, involving them with your osteoarthritis and increasing intimacy.

10. Using Supportive Devices.

There are a whole range of options reviewed more fully by fellow sufferers under ‘treatments for osteoarthritis’ that can reduce the strain or physical burden you put on your joints every day.

These typically include knee braces, back straps and wrist supports.

11. Physiotherapy.

A good physio can show you a whole range of exercises to strengthen the muscles around your joints.

12. Acupuncture.

This is somewhat controversial as the exact benefits of acupuncture are largely disputed, but undoubtedly it has worked for some people and so earns a place on our list.

13. Occupational Therapy.

A good occupational therapist can make a real difference by suggesting a whole range of items for around the house that can help with easing the pain, such as suction cups for opening cupboards etc.

Alternatively, you can read our article ‘dealing with osteoarthritis pain’ which features tips and tricks from several occupational therapists, a number that I’ve personally picked up from sufferers and some from our own members that suffer – all in the comfort of your own home!

14. Rubefacients.

These are creams that produce a warm, reddening effect on your skin when you apply them thoroughly. A number of these creams (or gels) make claims to be effective for osteoarthritis, but none can claim to offer anything beyond very short-term relief.

15. TENS Machines.

These are covered fully under ‘what is a TENS machine’. Basically, an electrical pulse is sent via sticky electrode patches to numb the nerve endings that control your pain. This treatment is frequently now recommended by doctors and can be carried out in your own home.

16. Diet.

As with any chronic pain that has some semblance of inflammation or vitamin deficiency, a healthy diet with particularly high concentrations of certain foods can be of great help. We cover everything you need to about the best theoretical diet for osteoarthritis in response to a members question here.

Supplements For Osteoarthritis

Numerous nutritional supplements make claims to help with osteoarthritis. At various times, the NHS in England and other doctors in the US have thrown their support behind various options, most notably Chondroitin and Glucosamine.

However, very limited evidence exists to support the effectiveness of these supplements and for this reason regulatory bodies in England such as NICE (The National Institute For Health And Care Excellence) have more recently changed their recommendation to be against their use (at least when it is the government paying for them).

Similarly research in ‘Clinics In Geriatric Medicine’ (2010) has linked low vitamin D levels with osteoarthritis, while also noting that low vitamin C levels seemed to be connected to the disease progressing more rapidly.

Theoretically supplements of either vitamin C or vitamin D should be helpful. In reality, how much actual vitamin you get in a supplement and what effect it will have leaves much to questions.

Other supplements that might considered are ‘avocado-soybean unsaponifiables’. Not surprisingly this is a mixture of avocado and soybean oils. Iromnically, in Europe it is considered effective as an anti-inflammatory that can slow joint damage.

Oddly, this is not the case in the UK or the US however – showing just how much debate there is around supplements for arthritis.

The final one that you might come across is association with arthritis treatment is omega 3 fatty acids. That is the oil found in fish or fish oil supplements. Many believe it can improve joint function. The scientific jury however is still out with the American College Of Rheumatology most notable in their questioning of the effectiveness of supplements for osteoarthritis.

Medication For Osteoarthritis

Pharmaceutical products are not always the best (or first) solution for osteoarthritis, but like everything, they have their place in your potential ‘basket’ of treatments.

In the case of these drugs, their focus will all be around supressing the pain of osteoarthritis to allow you to live as normal a life as possible.

There are basically 6 options – your basic paracetamol, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), the even more effective but equally more dangerous opioids, steroid injections, capsaicin cream and PHP injections.

All of these should of course only be considered following a positive diagnosis of osteoarthritis and under consultation with your doctor.

I have already covered the dangers of NSAIDs such as Ibuprofen and Opioid painkillers in other articles that may be of great interest to you.

Paracetamol or Acetaminophen. If you know you have osteoarthritis, this is an easy first line of treatment. Stick within recommended doses and it is available as an over-the-counter medicine from any pharmacy.

NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory Drugs). The next step up, under prescription from your doctor is an anti-inflammatory such as Ibuprofen, Diclofenac or Naproxen. As the name suggests, these work to reduce the pain of osteoarthritis by reducing the inflammation.

However, many NSAIDs have considerable side effects including bleeding problems, cardiovascular dangers and severe stomach upset, so you need to consult a doctor really (even if some are available over-the-counter at a pharmacy).

Similarly if you start experiencing any strange changes or side effects, then you need to get to a doctor as soon as possible.

One particularly useful tip if considering NSAIDs is that some come in a topical cream. Ibuprofen for one comes in a number of topical creams and gels.

The importance of this is it dramatically cuts down on some of the side effects particularly those associated with the gut (Irritable bowel syndrome and diarrheoa). It can also be applied very locally if your osteoarthritis is only affecting your hands or feet for example.

NSAIDs in tablet form however are certainly not suitable for everyone and so you should only consider using the cream if you haven’t got a prescription from your doctor.

Opioids. These include much stronger but a lot more dangerous drugs such as codeine and morphine.

Opioids are very much a later option when the pain is largely uncontrolled otherwise. Most commonly used for osteoarthritis are Tramadol and Dihydrocodeine. However, neither is without substantial side effects and considerable risk of withdrawal symptoms if you try to come off them.

They also have various contraindications including epilepsy for Tramadol and COPD for Dihydrocodeine.

It is not unusual for your doctor to also prescribe other drugs to try and counter some of the side effects of opioids, such is their potency and danger.

Anti depressants. Duloxetine (aka Cymbalta) is accepted and approved in many countries for the treatment of chronic pain, such as that from osteoarthritis – although technically it was created for use as an antidepressant.

Steroid Injections. These are one of the last chemical options to be tried, when most other drugs have failed. They work by injecting cortisol (a hormone) directly into the affected area, normally after a local anaesthetic has been applied for the pain.

They are used for the most painful musculoskeletal issues and are sometimes injected around the base of the spine if back pain is a real problem while soon-to-be mums are in labour. It has also been used for extreme back pain in the past.

Typically steroid injections provide very quick relief, but it will wear off and you’ll need further injections that can only be given with a period of at least 3 months between each injection.

However, it is also worth knowing that another reason steroid injections are restricted is because over time, the medication will actually worsen your joint damage. Short-term gain for long-term pain, so to speak.

Capsaicin Cream. This is great if your osteoarthritis mainly effects your knees or your hands as it is very easy to apply locally.

This can however be a very slow treatment, as it can take up to two weeks before you get the full painkilling effect of the cream. At it’s best, capsaicin cream will cut off the pain messages sent to your brain through your nerves, providing pain relief.

PRP Injections. Another more recent treatment that may be considered for your osteoarthritis, is ‘Platelet Rich Plasma’ injections.

Basically, a sample of your blood will be taken and a consultant will then separate ‘healing platelets’ from the rest of your blood. These healing platelets are then injected in to your most affected joints.

Unfortunately, while initial results look promising for speeding up the general healing process, just how effective this is either in the long-term or specifically for osteoarthritis is currently still unknown.

Lubricant Injections. Hyaluronic acid may be injected to provide pain relief by adding extra fluid ‘cushioning’ to your knee. They inject hyaluronic acid because it has many properties similar to that of actual joint fluid.

Surgery For Osteoarthritis

If your joints become severely damaged by osteoarthritis then a final option, after all other possible treatments have been tried and exhausted, is surgery.

The benefit of having surgery is that it may give you increased movement and therefore the opportunity to resume semi-normal activities.

However, it is certainly not without pain. Besides the actual surgery itself, most options require considerable rehabilitation and you are never likely to be completely free of discomfort – but in certain cases surgery is still much better than the present reality.

There are 3 basic types of surgery –

Arthroplasty (or complete joint replacement)…    

Under a general anaesthetic, your surgeon will cut out the affected joint and replace it with an artificial one made of ceramics and metal.

Today, this is a very common procedure as many people now have it in their latter years in response to extreme joint pain. The most common joints for a complete replacement are the hip and the knee joints.

Once replaced, a completely new joint typically has a life span of approximately fifteen to twenty years.

For younger patients, there is also a new technique called ‘resurfacing’. It uses only metal as a material and less of your own bone is removed, making it easier to carry out further revisions if needed at a later point.

Osteotomy…

This is only really relevant if you get osteoarthritis in your knees, but for whatever reason, you are not yet the ideal candidate for a full replacement.

In this case, a surgeon will typically try to ‘realign’ your knee by either adding or removing a piece of your knee joint.

The rationale behind this type of surgery is that an extra piece of bone in your knee can change the way you walk and how your knee distributes your body weight. With careful planning pre and post surgery, can move your weight away from the damaged part of your knee.

Unfortunately, this is not often a permanent solution as further revisions and eventual complete replacement surgery are highly likely.

Arthrodesis…

Arthrodesis is a strange alternative, but one that can be highly effective in certain cases. Basically, your joint is fused together in a permanent position.

Such fusing together of your joint has the advantage of making it much stronger than before, and almost certainly relieving much of the pain – but with the obvious limitation that the movement of your joint will be nil.                                           

Coping With Osteoarthritis.

We look at a whole range of tips for ‘dealing with arthritis pain’ in another article, including potential adjustments you may need to make to continue working, but there are also a number of day to day strategies that should be considered after a diagnosis.

1. Manage Your Treatments Basket.

As you try different therapies and pain relief techniques, so you gradually build up a ‘basket’ of ones that have been successful for you.

We all respond to treatments differently, so this will not be the same as everyone else’s. It is worth keeping a diary and almost conducting ‘scientific’ experiments to measure the effectiveness of each treatment.

By this we really mean, keep all other treatments the same and try changing just one. Any improvements in your pain levels both in the first day and the next couple of weeks cn be put down directly to the new treatment.

After a few weeks, keep going with the treatment if it works – stop using it if it doesn’t. Regardless of the result, after your ‘trial’ has passed, try another option. Gradually you will build up the perfect combination of treatments for your 

2. Taking your medicine.

If you are given medicine by your doctor, it is vital to keep taking it even if you start feeling much better.

Many medicines have a cumulative effect, which means they build up to a desired level of concentration in your body and pain relief is achieved. Stopping them might see your pain return pretty quickly and just starting them would be ineffective as you’ve got to build up slowly again.

Similarly preventative medicines only work by taking them in advance so you don’t get pain breakthroughs.

If you start experiencing side effects however it is vital you go back to your doctor to keep them aware.

Similarly if you decide to try taking supplements for your osteoarthritis, make sure you let your doctor know if you are on any medication as well. Some supplements can cause serious reactions when taken with certain powerful drugs.

The majority of supplements are fine in conjunction with the majority of drugs, but it is important to just check first as the consequences could be fatal.

3. Have Regular Doctor Reviews.

The chances are you will build up a healthcare team of contacts and doctors that you have seen for various reasons. It is important, as osteoarthritis is a long-term condition, that you review your progress and treatment with your favourite doctor or nurse regularly and keep anyone else in your ‘team’ up to date.

4. Talking To Others.

Managing with any long-term condition is tiring and stressful. In the long-term, this can have a serious effect on your mental well-being.

There are however, plenty of groups online (we are starting a strictly private group here) for support of people with osteoarthritis.

Talking to others is a really good idea, either by joining a local pain management group that meet face to face, or getting involved in several of the various online pain groups.

There are details for various support groups at the bottom of this article.

5. Keep Up To Date With Vaccinations.

If your immune system is even slightly compromised by your arthritis, it is a very good idea to make sure you are up to date with any available vaccinations.

In the UK, that means your flu jab and a one-off against pneumococcal pneumonia.

6. Plan Your Finances.

Once you have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, you know it is a long-term condition. Your next step then should be to start planning for the long-term.

This could be asking work to make adjustments for you, such as half-day working or working at home, changing your office layout to help or simply getting a thorough understanding of what you are entitled to if you find yourself unable to work anymore.

  • Are you near retirement and, if not, what are the implications if you need to pack up early?
  • What benefits or sick pay might you be entitled to by your employer?
  • How favourable would your employer be to you taking a day off if your arthritis was particularly bad?
  • What government or state benefits might you or your household qualify for if you were unable to work?
  • If your income was to drop (either to statutory sick pay or an early pension), would you still be able to pay the bills?
  • If not, are there savings that can be made to reduce your outgoings. Moneysavingexpert is a great source for tips on this.

The Final Word –

Hopefully, that has provided a little fresh insight in to some of the detail around what is osteoarthritis. As with all forms of arthritis, the key is to recognise the symptoms early, get a formal diagnosis and start treatment as soon as possible.

With no cure for osteoarthritis, the focus is entirely on stopping the progression of the disease and managing the severity of the symptoms.

With a fast response, this can be relatively easy and osteoarthritis doesn’t need to have such a huge impact on your life.

Obviously what we’ve written above is an effective overview of osteoarthritis, with more detail in some areas than others. Osteoarthritis will often surface in just one or two joints and treatments can be very specific around that particular joint.

As a result, we have covered each likely joint to be affected by osteoarthritis in much greater detail, looking not only causes, but treatments and what makes each treatment more effective.

As always, we hope this is helpful and would welcome any comments below.

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References –

1. ‘What Is Osteoarthritis?’. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.
 
2. Various. Osteoarthritis. Wikipedia
 
3. Virginia Byers Kraus, Francisco J. Blanco, Martin Englund, Morten A. Karsdal, and L. Stefan Lohmander (2015) Call for Standardized Definitions of Osteoarthritis and Risk Stratification for Clinical Trials and Clinical Use. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage Journal.
 
4. Various (Updated 2019) Osteoarthritis (OA) The Centers For Disease Control And Prevention.
 
5. Various (2014) Osteoarthritis : Care and Management. The National Institute For Health And Care Excellence.
 

6. Yuqing Zhang, D.Sc and Joanne M. Jordan, MD, MPH (2010) Clinics In Geritric Medicine. Epidemiology of Osteoarthritis

7.  Various (updated 2019) American College Of Rheumatology. Osteoarthritis Facts.