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Osteoarthritis - Symptoms, Causes & Treatment Options

Sprained Ankle Treatment

What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative joint disease characterized by the gradual breakdown of cartilage in the joints. Cartilage is the smooth, slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones within a joint, allowing them to glide smoothly over each other during movement. In osteoarthritis, this cartilage gradually wears away, leading to pain, stiffness, and decreased mobility in the affected joints.

As the cartilage deteriorates, the underlying bone may undergo changes, such as the formation of bony outgrowths or spurs, and the joint space may narrow. These changes can result in pain, swelling, and difficulty moving the joint.

Primary Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

Symptoms of osteoarthritis may include:

  • Pain: Persistent or intermittent pain in the affected joint, especially with movement or weight-bearing activities.

  • Stiffness: Stiffness, particularly in the morning or after periods of inactivity, which typically improves with movement.


  • Decreased Range of Motion: Difficulty bending, straightening, or fully moving the affected joint.

  • Swelling: Swelling or tenderness around the joint, especially after physical activity or prolonged use.

  • Bone Spurs: Formation of bony outgrowths or spurs around the edges of the affected joint.

Causes and Risk Factors of Osteoarthritis

Several factors contribute to the development of osteoarthritis, including:

  • Age: The risk of osteoarthritis increases with age, as cartilage naturally wears down over time.

  • Joint Overuse or Injury: Repetitive stress or previous joint injuries can accelerate cartilage breakdown and increase the risk of osteoarthritis.

  • Obesity: Excess body weight places added pressure on weight-bearing joints, such as the knees and hips, leading to increased wear and tear on cartilage.

  • Genetics: Family history and genetic factors can predispose individuals to osteoarthritis.

  • Joint Misalignment: Abnormal joint alignment or structural abnormalities can increase stress on the joints and contribute to cartilage damage.

Osteoarthritis Diagnosis by Medical Professionals

Medical professionals diagnose osteoarthritis through a combination of methods, including:

  • Physical Examination: Healthcare providers assess joint pain, stiffness, swelling, and range of motion during a physical examination.

  • Medical History: Gathering information about the onset, duration, and characteristics of symptoms, as well as any previous joint injuries or medical conditions.

  • Imaging Tests: X-rays, MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), or CT scans may be ordered to visualize joint damage, assess the severity of osteoarthritis, and rule out other conditions.

Osteoarthritis Treatment Approach

The treatment approach for osteoarthritis aims to alleviate pain, improve joint function, and slow disease progression. While there is no cure for osteoarthritis, a comprehensive treatment plan may include a combination of the following approaches:

  1. Pain Management: Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) can help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation. Prescription medications, including stronger NSAIDs or topical analgesics, may be recommended for individuals with severe symptoms.

  2. Physical Therapy: Physical therapy plays a crucial role in managing osteoarthritis by strengthening the muscles surrounding the affected joint, improving joint flexibility and range of motion, and enhancing overall joint stability. A physiotherapist can develop a customized exercise program tailored to the individual's needs and abilities.

  3. Lifestyle Modifications: Making lifestyle changes can help reduce stress on the affected joints and improve overall joint health. This may include maintaining a healthy weight to lessen the load on weight-bearing joints, engaging in low-impact exercises such as swimming or cycling, and avoiding activities that exacerbate pain or joint damage.

  4. Assistive Devices: Using assistive devices such as braces, splints, or orthotic inserts can provide support, stability, and pain relief for affected joints. Assistive devices can help reduce joint strain during daily activities and improve overall mobility.

  5. Injections: Corticosteroid injections or hyaluronic acid injections may be administered directly into the affected joint to reduce inflammation and provide pain relief, particularly for individuals with persistent symptoms. These injections can help alleviate pain and improve joint function, although their effects may be temporary.

  6. Surgery: In severe cases of osteoarthritis that do not respond to conservative treatments, surgical intervention may be necessary. Surgical options for osteoarthritis include joint replacement surgery, where the damaged joint is replaced with an artificial implant, and joint fusion surgery, where the bones of the affected joint are fused together to reduce pain and improve stability.

  7. Complementary Therapies: Some individuals find relief from osteoarthritis symptoms through complementary therapies such as acupuncture, massage therapy, or dietary supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. While research on the effectiveness of these therapies is mixed, they may offer additional symptom relief for some individuals.

Can Osteoarthritis Be Cured Without Treatment?

While there is no cure for osteoarthritis, early intervention and appropriate treatment can help manage symptoms, slow disease progression, and improve quality of life.

Osteoarthritis Recovery Period

The recovery period for osteoarthritis varies depending on the severity of symptoms, the effectiveness of treatment, and individual factors such as age and overall health. With proper management, many individuals with osteoarthritis can lead active and fulfilling lives.

Osteoarthritis Complications and Takeaway

Complications of untreated or poorly managed osteoarthritis may include chronic pain, joint deformity, and disability. However, with a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to individual needs, most individuals can effectively manage symptoms and maintain joint function.

For personalized care and effective treatment options for osteoarthritis, visit Bliss Chiropractic and Physiotherapy Centre. Our experienced team offers comprehensive services to help you manage osteoarthritis symptoms, improve joint function, and enhance your quality of life. Contact us today to schedule your consultation and take the first step towards relief.


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