Do you often feel stiffness in your knees after prolonged periods of sitting? What about increased pain in your hips and knees after a long walk or increased swelling in your joints after repetitive movements? You could be experiencing Osteoarthritis. As we age, we become more familiar with Osteoarthritis. It is frequently seen in people 60 or older but can begin as young as 20 and 30.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease. It is the breakdown of cartilage in our joints and is caused by wear and tear over time. Cartilage acts as a cushion at the end of bones that make up the joint, where bones come together. Over time as the cartilage wears, it can lead to bone rubbing on the bone, which can be very painful. Osteoarthritis can occur in any joint but is commonly seen in the weight-bearing joints such as the spine, hips, knees, ankles, and great toes. The most common early signs of Osteoarthritis are pain, tenderness, and joint stiffness, but the severity and frequency can vary depending on the stage of Osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis is categorized into multiple stages, depending on the severity of various symptoms. The first stage is very mild and consists of minimal wear of the cartilage, and most people don’t even realize they have it due to no symptoms. The second stage is categorized as “mild,” and consists of more wear of the cartilage, but the space between the bones is still normal. In this stage, people may experience pain, tenderness, or stiffness with overuse. The third stage is categorized as “moderate,” with more wearing of cartilage. At this stage, the space between the bones of the joint starts narrowing. In this stage, the symptoms still consist of pain, tenderness, and joint stiffness, usually occurring more frequently. Decreased range of motion in the joint can also be more severe in the third stage. People can even start experiencing joint swelling with repeated movements. The final stage is stage four and is categorized as “severe.” At this stage, the cartilage is mostly gone in the joint, and bone is rubbing on bone. Pain, joint stiffness, and swelling can be very frequent.
Many factors can increase a person’s chance of developing Osteoarthritis, including a genetic defect that negatively affects cartilage production, obesity, previous injuries, joint overuse, and other diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Most people will experience some degree of Osteoarthritis in their lifetime, but physical therapy can help manage the symptoms. Physical therapists perform an assessment and establish a treatment plan to target the problem tissues. They also provide patients with education and activity modification ideas to help normalize the mobility of the joint and strengthen important muscles, which help balance the joint, reducing further damage. While a therapist cannot remove the Osteoarthritis from your joint, they can have a significant impact on your function.
If you feel you are having issues with Osteoarthritis, we would love to help. Contact Elder Care Physical Therapy directly at (918)766-0391 to schedule an appointment today!