Is that Pain Arthritis?

By Dr. James MacDonald

For most of your life, you’ve paid little attention to your joints. Your knees worked just fine. Now, it seems those once trusty joints are falling down on the job. One of your knees or hips is sometimes stiff or achy. Routine tasks, such walking up stairs or gardening, are often painful and difficult.

If the above scenario sounds familiar, then you may have osteoarthritis (OA), one of the most common diseases in the U.S. Here is what you need to know about it.

What causes it? OA occurs when the cartilage that pads the ends of bones in a joint begins to wear away. This causes bones to rub against each other. OA most often affects the fingers, knees and hips.

Growing older is the most common cause of OA. But it can also be triggered by injury or overuse of a joint. Being overweight can lead to osteoarthritis in the knees; for every one pound of extra body weight, three pounds of force is added to your joints.

How does it feel? OA symptoms can range from mild pain that comes and goes to pain that doesn’t stop even when you’re resting or sleeping. A joint affected by osteoarthritis can become painful and swollen. Pain and stiffness may be worse in the morning and feel better with activity.

How is it treated? There is no cure for osteoarthritis, but it can be managed. Over-the-counter medications such as anti-flammitories can help control minor pain. For some, corticosteroid injections given in your physician’s office may provide some temporary relief. Rest, exercise and physical therapy may also be recommended by your physician to improve mobility. If conservative treatments don’t relieve your pain, surgery—including joint replacement—may be an option.

Talk to your doctor if you suspect that you have osteoarthritis. The doctor will note your symptoms and examine your joints. Sometimes additional tests, such as X-rays, are needed to determine the extent of the disease.

James MacDonald, MD, is an orthopaedic surgeon with Orthopaedic Sports and Medicine Center at Anne Arundel Medical Center and can be reached at 410.268.8862 or visit www.



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