What Is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis refers to a degenerative joint disease that results from the breakdown of joint cartilage and underlying bone. This condition affects millions of people worldwide and can occur in any joint in the body, especially those that bear most of our weight, such as the knees, spine, and feet. This disorder most commonly affects adults in their mid-40s or older, and more frequently in women and those who have a family history of it (Kumar, Goel, Gupta, & Gupta, 2017).
Osteoarthritis first damages the smooth cartilage that covers the end of the joint. As a result, the cartilage breaks down, making movement more difficult than usual, resulting in stiffness and discomfort. Osteophytes, or bone spurs, develop due to this swelling. Osteoarthritis costs Americans more in health insurance costs than almost any other condition.
What Are The Common Symptoms Of Osteoarthritis?
The major symptoms of osteoarthritis include joint pain and stiffness in the affected joints. Patients with osteoarthritis can manage their associated symptoms, but patients cannot reverse the damage done to the joints. Pain worsens during prolonged activity and dissipates with rest. Patients will usually feel stiff after a period of rest, but this generally diminishes as they start to move again. In the morning, patients may feel stiffness, which lasts less than thirty minutes after starting their daily activities. Sometimes osteoarthritis produces a crackling sound in the shoulder and knee joint while moving. Although these symptoms may change for no apparent reason. Common signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis may include(Swärdh, Jethliya, Khatri, Kindblom, & Opava, 2021):
- Severe joint pain
- Joint stiffness
- Joint tenderness
- Loss of mobility and flexibility
- Grating sound
- Swelling of the joint
- Development of bone spurs
In smaller joints like the fingers, patients may experience hard bony enlargements known as Heberden’s nodes or Bouchard’s nodes. These nodes might limit the movement of the fingers significantly. Osteoarthritis sometimes may develop bunions or hallux valgus on the affected toes and appears swollen and red.
What Are The Common Causes Of Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis develops when the cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones around the joints deteriorates over time. Cartilage refers to a slippery, stiff tissue that allows for almost frictionless joint mobility. Bone will scrape against bone if the cartilage goes away entirely. Osteoarthritis increases wear and tear and causes bone alterations and the connective tissues that keep the joint together and bind muscle to bone to deteriorate. The primary cause of osteoarthritis includes damage from mechanical stress with insufficient self-repair by joints. Sources of this stress may comprise some pathological conditions, mechanical injury, obesity, peripheral nerve impairment, etc. The following factors increase the risk of Osteoarthritis:
- Old age
- Joint injuries
- Hereditary factors
- Bone deformities
- Repeated stress over the joint
- Metabolic diseases like hemochromatosis
Although, as a degenerative disease, osteoarthritis worsens over time and results in chronic pain. Patients with this condition may experience depression and sleep disturbances as a complication.
How Do Spinal Specialists Diagnose Osteoarthritis?
This common form of arthritis affects almost 237 million people worldwide, comprising 3.3% of global population (Zhang, Hou, Xing, & Lin, 2019). In the USA, almost 30 to 53 million people and in Australia approximately 1.9 million people suffer from this condition.
Diagnosis of osteoarthritis includes a detailed physical examination by the neurosurgeon that includes checking joints for flexibility, tenderness, redness, and swelling. A neurosurgeon may suspect osteoarthritis after knowing the symptoms if-
- Patients aged 45 or older
- Patient suffers from joint stiffness and immobility
- Pain worsens over time
Spinal specialists usually differentiate osteoarthritis from rheumatoid arthritis which refers to an autoimmune disease that attacks host’s own joint lining. For further confirmation, neurosurgeons may perform the following tests (Wang, Xing, Dong, & Lin, 2019):
- Imaging tests: This includes X-rays, Magnetic Imaging Reasoning (MRI), etc. that helps to detect problems within the joints, cartilage, and fluid-containing structures near the joints.
- Laboratory tests: This includes analyzing the patient’s blood or joint fluid to confirm the diagnosis. Blood tests help to differentiate between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Neurosurgeons can confirm rheumatoid arthritis by performing a blood test. Joint fluid analysis also detects inflammation and helps to determine the actual reason of the joint pain.
How Do Spinal Specialists Treat Osteoarthritis?
Treatment for osteoarthritis includes both conservative and surgical options. This focuses on symptom relief and joint function improvement. Neurosurgeons suggest trying a few different therapies or combinations of treatments to find the best one for the patients. Treatment procedures of osteoarthritis may include (Jalal et al., 2017):
- Medications: This helps to relieve osteoarthritis symptoms, primarily pain by administration of acetaminophen, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and other pain
- Therapy: This includes physical therapy, occupational therapy, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), etc. Physical therapy helps to strengthen the muscles around the joint, reduce pain, and increase joint flexibility. Occupational therapy helps to perform everyday tasks without putting extra stress on the affected joint. TENS uses low-voltage electrical current to relieve pain.
If all of above option fails, neurosurgeons may consider procedures like corticoid injections, lubrication injections, and surgery. Surgical options for osteoarthritis include joint replacement, joint realignment, etc. Please contact us for any query.
Jalalvand, A. … Tayfe Seyedan, A. A. (2017). The Effect of Knee Osteoarthritis on Excursions of Lower Limb Joints During Gait. Physical Treatments – Specific Physical Therapy, 6(4), 233–241. https://doi.org/10.18869/nrip.ptj.6.4.233
Kumar, A., Goel, S., Gupta, R., & Gupta, B. M. (2017). Osteoarthritis research in India: A scientometric assessment of publications output during 2007–16. International Journal of Information Dissemination and Technology, 7(3), 157. https://doi.org/10.5958/2249-5576.2017.00016.4
Swärdh, E., Jethliya, G., Khatri, S., Kindblom, K., & Opava, C. H. (2021). Approaches to osteoarthritis – A qualitative study among patients in a rural setting in Central Western India. Physiotherapy Theory and Practice, 00(00), 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1080/09593985.2021.1872126
Wang, K., Xing, D., Dong, S., & Lin, J. (2019). The global state of research in nonsurgical treatment of knee osteoarthritis: A bibliometric and visualized study. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, 20(1), 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12891-019-2804-9
Zhang, Q., Hou, Y., Xing, D., & Lin, J. (2019). Tracing scientific outputs in the osteoarthritis research field in China based on publications in the Web of Science. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage Open, 1(1–2), 100007. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ocarto.2019.100007