Charleston Orthopaedic Charleston Orthopaedic Charleston Orthopaedic
Charleston Orthopaedic
Charleston Orthopaedic
Charleston Orthopaedic
Charleston Orthopaedic Charleston Orthopaedic Charleston Orthopaedic
Charleston Orthopaedic Charleston Orthopaedic Charleston Orthopaedic
Charleston Orthopaedic
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Arthritis means inflammation of the joints. It causes pain and usually also limits movement of the joints that are affected. There are many kinds of arthritis. A type called osteoarthritis is the most common. Osteoarthritis is also called degenerative arthritis. But it doesn't usually cause severe crippling.

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, is also called degenerative joint disease or "wear and tear" arthritis. Almost everyone is affected by it to some extent as they grow older. It most frequently occurs in weight bearing joints, mainly knees, hips, and ankles. This form of arthritis slowly and gradually breaks down the cartilage that covers the ends of each bone in a joint.
Normally, cartilage acts as a shock absorber, providing a smooth surface between the bones. But with osteoarthritis, the smooth surface becomes rough and pitted. In advanced stages, it may wear away completely. Without their normal  gliding surfaces, the bones grind against one another, causing inflammation, pain and restricted movement. Bone spurs may form.

In osteoarthritis of the knee, the shape of the bone and appearance of the leg may change over the years. Many people become bow-legged or knock-kneed. And in osteoarthritis of the hip, the affected leg may appear shorter.

What causes osteoarthritis?


The exact cause isn't known. A person may be at increased risk of osteoarthritis because it runs in the family. Osteoarthritis seems to be related to the wear and tear put on joints over the years in most people. But wear and tear doesn't by itself cause osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis isn't an inevitable result of aging or of wear and tear on the joint.

What are the symptoms?

The number one symptom is pain. The pain is caused by irritation and pressure on nerve endings as well as muscle tension and fatigue. The pain can progress from mild soreness and aching with movement to severe pain, even when resting.

How is it diagnosed?

A simple weight-bearing x-ray and examination by a skilled orthopedic doctor will determine if you have osteoarthritis. Time-consuming and costly diagnostic procedures are not required. 

Who gets osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is more common in older people because they have been using their joints longer. Using the joints to do the same task over and over or simply using them over time can make osteoarthritis worse.
Younger people can also get osteoarthritis. Athletes are at risk because they use their joints so much. People who have jobs that require the same movement over and over are also at risk.

Is there a treatment?

No cure for osteoarthritis has been found. But you don't have to become disabled. The right plan can help you stay active, protect your joints from damage, limit injury and control pain.

Will my arthritis get worse?

Osteoarthritis does tend to get worse over time. But you can do many things to help yourself. It's important to stay as active as possible. When joints hurt, people tend not to use them and the muscles get weak. This can cause contractures (stiff muscles), and you can lose your range of motion-it gets harder to get around. This causes more pain and the cycle begins again. Ask your doctor to discuss pain control with you, so that you can stay active and avoid this problem.

How arthritis will affect you also depends on your total health. For example, being too heavy means your joints have to carry extra weight. This can make osteoarthritis get worse faster and bother you more. This is especially true for arthritis of weight-bearing joints-like your hips, knees or spine. Losing weight could lessen your symptoms if you're heavy.

Tips on staying active:

  • Lose weight if you're overweight
  • Exercise regularly in brief sessions
  • See a physiotherapist
  • Use canes and other special devices
    to protect your joints
  • Use heat and/or cold to reduce the
    pain or stiffness
  • Avoid lifting heavy things
  • Avoid overusing your joints
  • Don't pull on objects to move them-push them instead
  • Take your medicine the way your doctor suggests

Will medicine help?

Medicine you can buy without a prescription that reduces inflammation-such as ASA (an example is aspirin) or ibuprofen (some examples are Advil, Medipren, Motrin IB) - or painkillers - such as acetaminophen (some examples are Tylenol, Panadol) can help you feel better. Acetaminophen (some examples are Tylenol, Panadol) is the usual treatment for osteoarthritis. If you take an anti-inflammatory, you may get an ulcer and your doctor may want you to add a pill to protect your stomach.

Medicine should be used wisely. You only need the amount that makes you feel good enough to keep moving. Using too much medicine may cause side effects. If you often take medicine that doesn't require a prescription, your doctor may give you a prescription medicine that can be taken less often to relieve pain. Talk to your family doctor about what's right for you.

Watch out for false "cures" that may be advertised in magazines or newspapers.

What about surgery?

Arthroscopy:

Arthroscopic procedures may not be helpful for arthritis. In some cases, a "flap" of torn knee cartilage can aggravate arthritis and cause additional pain. The cartilage flap can be removed by arthroscopy.

Knee or Hip Replacement:

Knee replacement or hip replacement is a very positive solution to the pain and disability of advanced osteoarthritis. The rough, worn surfaces of the joint are relined with smooth-surfaced metal and plastic components.

Are special devices or aids really helpful?

Yes. Special devices have been designed to help people with arthritis stay independent for as long as possible. These devices help protect your joints and keep you moving. For example, if you learn to use a cane the right way, you can help reduce the amount of pressure your weight puts on your hip joint when you walk by up to 60%.

Special devices or aids:

  • Canes
  • Walkers
  • Splints
  • Shoe inserts or wedges
  • Cushioned pads for shoes
  • Non-slip soles of shoes for traction
  • Lightweight appliances-those made
    from aluminum or plastic rather than glass
  • Mobile shower heads
  • Bath seats
  • Special fasteners (such as Velcro) on clothing
  • Large grips for tools and utensils (wrap foam or fabric around items with narrow handles, such as pens)
  • Wall-mounted jar openers
  • Electric appliances, such as can openers and knives
  • Grab bars for the bathtub

Will exercise really help?

Exercise keeps your muscles strong and helps keep you flexible. This will help you stay independent. But don't overdo it. Exercise in small amounts through the day with rest time in between. This will help you avoid injury and pain by not trying to do too much at once.
Exercises that don't strain your joints are best. These may include tightening your muscles and then relaxing them a number of times. You can do this with all of your major muscles several times throughout the day.
Another good exercise for arthritis is movement in a swimming pool, with much of your body's weight held up by the water. You may find this type of "aquacise" program available through a local YMCA or YWCA or other pool in your community.

Ask your family doctor what programs are available in your area. He or she may also suggest that you see a physiotherapist.

Should I use heat or cold to ease pain?

Using heat or cold may reduce your pain and stiffness. Heat can be applied through warm baths, hot towels, hot water bottles or heating pads. Ice packs can also be used to help make you feel better.

Try alternating heat with ice packs. Some people find that using heat before activity and cold after activity is useful. Try different combinations and see what works best for you.

Charleston Orthopaedic
Charleston Orthopaedic
Charleston Orthopaedic
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Shoulder & Knee Anthroscopy
Shoulder Replacement
Hip & Knee Replacement
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Hip Resurfacing Replacement
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