Osteoarthritis: Pain, Treatment and Causes
By Med-Fit Content Team . Last Updated Tuesday, 1st August 2023
What is Osteoarthritis?
- Primary osteoarthritis, which is the most common type, affects multiple joints and is particularly prominent in the fingers, thumbs, spine, hips, knees, and big toes.
- Secondary osteoarthritis occurs in conjunction with pre-existing joint abnormalities resulting from injuries, repetitive or sports-related activities, inflammatory arthritis like rheumatoid arthritis or psoriatic arthritis, infectious arthritis, genetic joint disorders like Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, or other conditions.
What Causes Osteoarthritis
- rheumatoid arthritis
- family history
- age (typically affecting adults aged 45 or older)
What is the best treatment for Osteoarthritis
- Medications: This includes topical pain medicines and oral analgesics, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), which can help alleviate pain and inflammation.
- Hot and Cold Packs: Using intermittent hot and cold packs locally can provide relief and reduce inflammation.
- Knee Ice Packs: Cold Therapy on your Knees constricts blood vessals which is likely to help reduce stiffness and inflammation, however customers usually build a hot and cold therapy to soothe joints, whilst ensuring their mobility is not hindered. The Ice Pack for Knees certainly helps with the cold therapy.
- Physical Therapy: These therapies can aid in strengthening muscles, improving joint flexibility, and enhancing overall function.
- Weight Loss: For overweight individuals, shedding excess pounds can significantly reduce the stress on weight-bearing joints.
- Healthy Eating and Managing Diabetes: Adopting a healthy diet and effectively managing diabetes and cholesterol levels can positively impact osteoarthritis management.
- TENS Machines: Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) machines can be beneficial for pain relief in individuals with arthritis.
- Intra-articular Injection Therapies: Injections of steroids or hyaluronic acid "gel" into the affected joints may be employed to alleviate pain and improve joint function.
- Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Some patients find relief through the use of vitamins, supplements, and other alternative strategies.
What are the symptoms of Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a gradual and progressive condition that presents various noticeable signs:
- Pain: Joints affected by osteoarthritis may ache during or after movement, and discomfort can persist even at rest.
- Stiffness: Morning stiffness in the joints or after periods of inactivity is a common feature.
- Tenderness: Gentle pressure applied to or near the affected joint may result in tenderness.
- Reduced Flexibility: Difficulty in moving the joint through its full range of motion can be experienced.
- Grating Sensation: Joint movements might produce a grating sensation, accompanied by popping or crackling sounds.
- Bone Spurs: Hard lumps of extra bone, known as bone spurs, may form around the affected joint.
- Swelling: Soft tissues around the joint may become inflamed, leading to swelling.
- Hands: Finger joints may develop bony enlargements and shape changes over time.
- Knees: During movement, grinding or scraping noises might be heard, and weakness in muscles and ligaments can lead to knee instability.
- Hips: Pain and stiffness may be felt in the hip joint, groin, inner thigh, or buttocks. Over time, hip movement may become limited.
- Spine: Stiffness and pain in the neck or lower back can occur, and some individuals may develop spinal stenosis.
What’s the difference between Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Symmetrical nature of the disease, with arthritis affecting both sides of the body (e.g., both hips).
- Fever, anemia, fatigue, and loss of appetite.
- Rheumatoid arthritis: Relatively rapid onset, occurring over weeks to months.
- Osteoarthritis: Slow progression, developing over years.
- Rheumatoid arthritis: Painful, swollen, and stiff joints.
- Osteoarthritis: Joints ache, may be tender, but generally have little or no swelling.
- Rheumatoid arthritis: Often affects both small and large joints on both sides of the body (symmetrical involvement), like both hands, wrists, elbows, or balls of feet.
- Osteoarthritis: Typically starts on one side and may spread to the other. Often limited to specific joints, such as finger joints close to fingernails, thumbs, large weight-bearing joints (hips, knees), or the spine.
- Rheumatoid arthritis: Morning stiffness usually lasts longer than 1 hour.
- Osteoarthritis: Morning stiffness usually lasts less than 1 hour, with stiffness recurring at day's end or after activity.
- Rheumatoid arthritis: Frequent fatigue and a general feeling of being ill.
- Osteoarthritis: Systemic symptoms are absent.
Osteoarthritis of the Knee
As mentioned earlier, OA is the most common form of arthritis and occurs even in younger people however, the chance of OA developing rises quite considerably after the ages of 50.
Some symptoms of Osteoarthritis of the knee include:
- Feeling the warmth in and around the joint
- Swelling around the joint
- Pain that increases more when you’re active
- Decreased mobility of the knee – could become quite difficult getting in and out cars
Osteoarthritis of the Hands
Osteoarthritis can usually affect three parts of the hand, such as:
- The middle joint of the finger
- The joint closest to the fingertip
- The base of the thumb
Around half of all women and a ¼ of all men will experience some form of stiffness and pain in their hands, that’s most likely OA and likely to be experienced more so by 85 years old. The protective part of the cartilage on the ends of your bones begin to break down and eventually wear away – this means over time the bones begin rubbing together and causing quite a bit of pain.
Osteoarthritis of the Feet
There are many points in your foot and ankles that can be affected by osteoarthritis – as there are 33 joints in the foot alone, the big toe is the part of the foot that is commonly affected by OA. The body is known to go through processes of repairing joints, changing their shape or general structure naturally, however when this happens in one or more of your joints, this is normally related to Osteoarthritis.
If left untreated, Osteoarthritis can at times cause further problems in your feet. These types of other problems include:
- Bunions – Osteoarthritis and Hallux Rigidus can cause your big toe to lean towards the other toes, this is normally known as a bunion or a hallux valgus. When you have a bunion, a bony lump begins to form on your big toe and this may also come with red swollen skin over it – this results in hard skin being formed around the affected area.
- Corns and Calluses – These usually appear on your feet when certain areas are exposed to pressure or potentially when skin repeatedly rubs against something. Corns are hard small lumps on the skin and calluses are patches of thicker skin that feel very rough; however these two conditions can be caused by other possible problems with your feet.
- Hallux Rigidus – This condition usually occurs when Osteoarthritis is left untreated with cartilage wearing away, and this can usually result in bones in your feet joining together. Hallux Rigidus is usually when this type of situation happens in the big toe – which makes your big toe far more difficult to move and you may have trouble walking.