Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common joint disorder, which happens due to aging and wear and tear of a joint.
CAUSES AND RISK FACTORS
Pain and stiffness in the joints are the most common symptoms. The pain is often worse after exercise when you put weight or pressure on the joint. If you have osteoarthritis, your joints probably become stiff and harder to move over time. You may notice a rubbing, grating or crackling sound when you move the joint. The phrase "morning stiffness" refers to the pain and stiffness you may feel when you first wake up. Stiffness usually lasts for 30 minutes or less. It is improved by mild activity that "warms up" the joint. During the day, the pain may get worse when you are active and feel better when you are resting. After a while, the pain may be present when you are resting. It may even wake you up at night. Some people might not have symptoms, even though X-rays show the changes of OA.
SIGNS AND TESTS
A physical examination reveals
OA cannot be cured. It will most likely get worse over time. However, your OA symptoms can be controlled. You can have surgery, but other treatments can improve your pain and make your life much better. Although these treatments cannot make the arthritis go away, they can often delay surgery.
Over-the-counter pain relievers, which you can buy without a prescription, can help with OA symptoms. Most doctors recommend acetaminophen (Tylenol) first, because it has less side effects than other drugs. If your pain continues, your doctor may recommend nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Types of NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen.
Other medications or supplements include:
Staying active and getting exercise helps maintain joint and overall movement. Ask your health care provider to recommend an appropriate home exercise routine. Water exercises such as swimming, are especially helpful. Other lifestyle recommendations include
As the pain from your OA becomes worse, keeping up with everyday activities may become more difficult or painful. Sometimes making changes around the home will take some stress off your joints and relieve some of the pain. If your work is causing stress in certain joints, you may need to adjust your work area or change work habits.
Physical therapy can help improve muscle strength and motion of stiff joints, as well as your sense of balance. Therapists have many techniques to treat OA. If therapy does not make you feel better after 6-8 weeks, then it most likely will not work at all.
Massage therapy may also help provide short-term pain relief. Make sure you work with an experienced massage therapist who understands how to work with sensitive joint areas.
Splints and braces can sometimes support weakened joints. Some prevent the joint from moving; others allow some movement. You should use a brace only when your doctor or therapist recommends one. Using a brace the wrong way can cause joint damage, stiffness and pain.
Acupuncture is a treatment based on Chinese medicine. How it works is not entirely clear. Some studies have found that acupuncture may provide short-term pain relief for people with OA.
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