What is Arthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a disease of the cartilage in joints. Osteoarthritis causes progressive breakdown of cartilage until the bones, which were once separated by cartilage, rub against each other. This results in damage to the tissue and underlying bone, causing the painful joint symptoms of osteoarthritis.
What Causes Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis results from chemical changes in the cartilage that causes it to breakdown faster than it can be produced. In most cases, the cause of this cartilage breakdown is unknown. In a few people, there seems to be a link between cartilage breakdown and other factors, including injury to a joint and a family history of osteoarthritis.
Can Osteoarthritis Be Prevented?
Steps can be taken to help control the symptoms or to help prevent the progression of osteoarthritis. These include:
- Weight control
- Injury prevention
What Are The Symptoms?
- Pain most often in the spine, hands, hips, knees, and feet
- Stiffness after inactivity that lasts less than 1 hour
- Limited motion in joints
- Tenderness and occasional swelling
- Deformity of the joints
- Crackling or “creaking” of the joints, usually painless.
Why Is It Important To Exercise When I have Osteoarthritis?
Joints and muscles need to be exercised to prevent stiffness and weakness. Also, exercise will make you feel better and help you maintain a healthy weight. Excess body weight places extra force and pressure on arthritic joints and causes osteoarthritis to progress more rapidly. Exercising will not “wear out” a damaged joint. Without exercise, not only will muscle strength be lost but osteoarthritis will progress faster. Stretching and strengthening exercises will help strengthen the muscles and ligaments surrounding a joint, which in turn will protect and reduce stress on the joint.