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old white male walking in park with osteoarthritic knee

What Is Osteoarthritis & How Is It Treated?

Written By: Ken Bordfeld,  PT , Clinical Director, SportsCare Eatontown

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, is the most common form of arthritis. It is characterized by the breakdown of joint cartilage.

Joint cartilage is the stiff resilient tissue on both sides of your joints that protects underlying bone. It is primarily composed of water.

What are the risk factors for developing osteoarthritis?

Age is the primary risk factor for developing osteoarthritis. The prevalence of knee osteoarthritis is 10% to 20% in those aged 65 to 75 years old. Gender also plays a role as a risk factor with women twice as likely to develop osteoarthritis than men.

There are other risk factors, however; the only risk factor that is within our control is obesity. Studies have shown that overweight women are 9 times more likely to develop osteoarthritis than women of normal weight. Men who are overweight 5 times more likely to develop osteoarthritis.

What can I do if I develop osteoarthritis?

The treatment of any form of arthritis is multifaceted. It may include medications to address the pain and inflammation. In addition, patients may receive “gel shots” from a physician. The “gel” that is injected is actually very similar to normal joint fluid that becomes diluted in osteoarthritic joints. These shots have been found to be very effective in slowing the degeneration of joints. One of the cornerstones of treatment for osteoarthritis is Physical Therapy.

A physical therapist will evaluate your joint function and develop a treatment plan to address your specific joint problems. Most treatments will include application of physical therapy modalities to decrease pain as well as passive stretching and range of motion to restore normal mobility to your joints. Perhaps the most important aspect of your treatment will be exercises designed by your therapist to strengthen the muscles around your joints.

The goal of strengthening is to increase the stability of the joint and to also decrease compressive forces on the joint itself. It is important to include these exercises in your daily routine after your therapy is completed. Your therapist will also instruct you in joint conservation techniques designed to minimize stress on your joints.

What about supplements?

Results of multiple studies concerning Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate taken either separately or in combination are conflicting.

While most studies agree that these supplements will not slow the progression of joint degeneration, one study reported significant pain relief in patients with moderate to severe pain when both supplements were taken together.

It is always best to consult your physician before taking any supplements, however.

Where else can I get information concerning osteoarthritis?

There are many websites devoted to joint disorders. One that provides a great deal of very good information is the American Arthritis Foundation. More information can be found here on our website as well.

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