The common cause for chronic joint pain is Osteoarthritis. It occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of your bones (joints) wears down over time. Cartilage enables frictionless joint motion. It occurs slowly and worsens over time. It is due to the wear and tear process. Eventually, if the cartilage wears down completely, bone will rub on bone creating friction and pain.
Although osteoarthritis can damage any joint, the disorder most commonly affects joints in your hands, knees, hips and spine. Damage to the joints CANNOT be reversed. Staying active, maintaining a healthy weight and some treatments might slow progression of the disease and help improve pain and joint function.
Risk factors are age, the risk of osteoarthritis increases with age, females are more predisposed, obesity adds stress to weight bearing joints like hip and knees, injury to a joint, misuse of a joint and genetics, increases the risk of developing Osteoarthritis.
Common signs and symptoms:
- Pain or aching joint
- Decreased range of motion (or flexibility)
It is diagnosed by proper history taking, physical examination and X rays.
Treatment and care
There is no cure for it, only the symptoms are suppressed with a variety of painkillers ( NSAIDS) and lifestyle modification to prevent further worsening of the joints. Muscle strengthening exercises, weight loss, supportive devices like crutches can be of temporary help. The worst case scenario when other treatment options fail is surgery. Knee replacement surgery is one of the most viable options.
A 56 years old obese female patient came to me with complaints of knee pain since past 3 months. Upon examination she was advised to get X ray of the knee joint. The X ray reports suggested osteoarthritis. A painkiller ( Feldene) was prescribed for 10 days, with regular knee exercise which needed to be repeated 15 times thrice a day. She was further instructed to avoid taking the stairs and other activities which could worsen the situation. In this particular case a lifestyle adjustment was required which was weight loss, to reduce the stress on her knee joints. It is very important to educate the patient regarding how osteoarthritis can be cared for properly to avoid surgery.
In future follow ups the patient managed to reduce weight which in turn improved her situation. She was off pain killers and simultaneously preserving her knee condition.
Maintaining a proper Body Mass Index always proves fruitful for many medical conditions. It can save you from many future diseases.
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