Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis, affecting millions of people world-wide. It is also referred to as "wear-and-tear" arthritis because, although it's known to run in families, it is commonly the result of repetitive joint motion which slowly erodes the protective cartilage between bone joints. There are a variety of therapies that have proven effective for treatment including lifestyle changes, holistic treatments, and over-the-counter/prescription medicines/creams, which relieve symptoms and prolong joint health.
Osteoarthritis is a Degenerative Joint Condition
Almost every bone in the human body has a smooth protective coating of cartilage on each end, providing a buffer where it connects to another bone. These connections form joints. Without cartilage, bones rub and grind painfully against one another as joints are flexed or bent, resulting in painful damage to the bone.
Unfortunately, this protective cartilage only lasts so long. Eventually, it begins to degenerate and osteoarthritis sets in. While OA usually affects people 55 and older, it can occur in younger individuals whose work or hobbies involve activities requiring repetitive motion.
Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
Common symptoms include:
- Acute Joint Pain - pain will occur during or immediately after joint activity
- Joint Tenderness - even gentle pressure applied to affected joints can cause tenderness or discomfort
- Stiffness - joints may become stiff, especially after prolonged periods of inactivity
- Decreased Flexibility - joint mobility may become limited and joints can lose their full range of motion
- A Grating Sensation - the bones in the joint can be heard and/or felt crackling, popping, or grinding as bones rub against one another
- Bone Spurs - small bony additions form around joints and can be felt or seen underneath the skin
There are many ways to reduce discomfort and help to minimize further cartilage degeneration. Before using over-the-counter, or prescription medications, people suffering from OA should consider the following lifestyle changes:
- Weight Management and Exercise - Weight management can help reduce the amount of wear-and-tear on joints susceptible to OA, such as the knees, hips, and ankles. Low-impact exercises such as swimming, walking, and cycling can allow for adequate cardio and strength training workouts without undue strain on vulnerable joints.
- Heat Therapy - Both heat and cold can be used to manage pain and reduce tissue swelling or spasms.
- Holistic Treatments - Many holistic remedies such as craniosacral therapy, massage, acupressure, acupuncture, and Chinese herbs or supplements have demonstrated notable relief from the discomfort of OA.
The sooner osteoarthritis is recognized, the faster individuals can take necessary steps to live a pain-free and active life style.
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