Introduction to Osteoarthritis

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Osteoarthritis – Oh(A) What a pain!

This article will deal with introducing the reader to OA in an easy and common language with examples. It will identify with the reader on which parts of the body the impact of OA is likely, what reasons OA is caused due to and why it happens to one individual and not another.

Visual depiction of osteoarthritis of the knee

“Rest assured…Your joint pains can be reduced.”

Mrs. Anandi is a homemaker and has been complaining of inability to cut the vegetables or hold the utensils for a long time. Mrs. Neelam is finding her climb up a flight of stairs to the temple, quite tough. Mr. Rishi has slowed down considerably due to knee pain in the squash court of late. Mehta-ji had outgrown his new T-shirt and is recovering from a stress injury in his hips.

What’s the common link between them, (you ask)?

All of them were diagnosed with Osteoarthritis (also known as degenerative arthritis or ‘OA’) - the wear and tear of the major joints in one’s body. Just like a plumber puts a washer between two hard pipe surfaces for smooth hinging, the body has cartilage to cushion friction between two bones within the joint areas. When these cartilages get worn out due to overuse, the bones tend to rub together directly and cause harder friction. This irritation is painful, sometimes accompanied by grinding noises due to joint movement, and hence, a person with OA complains. When the cartilage breaks down, it leads to inflammation, swelling and causes pain limiting the movements of the joints.

The human body has the ability to repair and nurture itself. However, this process could be over-compensated due to the nature of the trauma, resulting in a structural alteration. Unknown initially, there could be an overwhelming trauma and the repair process may not have compensated enough or simply caused more wear and tear, due to repeated overwork of the joints.

OA is a clinical condition of joint pain which limits functional movements of joints to varying degrees and reduces one's quality of life. While these consequences are important to take note of, the pain itself is related to psychological issues of changes in mood, sleep and coping abilities of the affected individual.

Why me?

The most common causes of OA in an individual, are:

Genes: Various genetic traits could cause OA. Either a defect in the production of collagen or other inherited defects, which could cause faster wear and tear in the joints.

Weight: Additional body weight over a period of time puts pressure on the joints and causes the cartilages to break down. Excess fat tissues could be producing additional inflammatory chemicals, thus aiding faster breakdown.

Profession: Certain professions result in overuse of the joints due to repeated actions like standing, bending, lifting heavy objects, or postural issues, which could lead to the faster disintegration of cartilages.

Others: Bone and joint disorders or metabolic disorders could also lead to osteoarthritis.

Some facts need to be known before we can better understand all about OA. It is not a reversible process; though a lot of research is being currently conducted in this field. Regular exercises decrease joint pain and improve movements.

Next, let us understand the symptoms and how to identify if someone really has OA.

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