Understanding Osteoarthritis

Arthritis and our joints are inexorably linked. Arthritis is a broad term that covers over 100 diseases, but its basic definition is “inflammation of the joints.” At Urgent Orthopedic Specialists, we primarily deal with a certain type of arthritis, osteoarthritis. Known as “wear and tear arthritis,” most people don’t even know they are suffering from osteoarthritis; they simply think they’re getting old or have aches and pains. Osteoarthritis can become very painful, however, and can end up limiting a person’s activity.

Since our whole team at Urgent Orthopedic Specialists help our patients deal with the pain and damage from osteoarthritis on a daily basis, here’s some additional information on this common form of arthritis.

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is the most prevalent form of arthritis. Simply put, it involves the breakdown of cartilage in the joints. It is most common in the weight-bearing joints: the knees, hips, and spine. If you’re over 50, you probably have some degree of osteoarthritis.

Cartilage deterioration is how osteoarthritis differs from other forms of arthritis, such as better-known forms like rheumatoid arthritis. Cartilage is the firm, rubbery material that covers the ends of the bones in our joints and acts as a shock absorber. Your cartilage prevents bone impacts and friction because it is able to change shape when compressed.

When you have osteoarthritis, your cartilage becomes stiff and loses its elasticity, making it more prone to wear and damage. Without its elasticity, cartilage loses much of its shock absorbing ability. This can allow your tendons and ligaments to stretch, causing pain. It may allow your bones to rub against each other.

What causes osteoarthritis?

Some of the causes of osteoarthritis are within your control; others you can do little about. These are the causes:

  • Obesity — Obesity is obviously bad for a variety of areas of your health, but it increases the risk for developing osteoarthritis in the knees, hips, and spine. This is simply because the increased loads placed on the joints causes damage over time. Losing the excess weight can slow the progression once osteoarthritis is established.
  • Injury — Past injuries play a big role in developing osteoarthritis. If a soccer player has injured his knee, as time goes by, he will be at a higher risk for developing osteoarthritis in that joint. Sports that involve heavy impacts, such as gymnastics, make its participants much more likely to develop osteoarthritis in their knees, hips, and spine.
  • Joint overuse — Overuse of certain joints increases the chances of developing osteoarthritis. If a person has to continually bend his or her knees in their job, for instance, there is an increased risk of osteoarthritis.
  • Heredity — Some people are born with defective cartilage due to a genetic deficiency. This will lead to more rapid deterioration in the joints. The same holds true for people born with joint abnormalities.
  • Other diseases — People with rheumatoid arthritis, the second most common form of arthritis, are more likely to develop osteoarthritis. Certain other diseases can also increase the chances.

At Urgent Orthopedic Specialists, we treat the damage that osteoarthritis has wrought on our patients’ knees, hips, and shoulders. Don’t put up with the pain; call our Midland offices at (432) 520-3020 and let’s see how we can help.

Posted in: Joint Pain & Replacement

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