There are over 100 different types of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common of them all and it affects 32.5 million adults in the United States alone. As you can imagine the worldwide number is much, much more. Other types of arthritis include psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.
Did you know that women over 50 are more likely to get osteoarthritis than men? Ladies in particular should remain aware of their bodies and constantly look out for the signs to ensure that arthritis is not being developed. It’s important to note that not everybody will not get osteoarthritis. However, keep reading for the tools and strategies to help you avoid this in your future.
Joints Most Affected by Osteoarthritis
The joints that are most often affected by osteoarthritis include the hands, hips, knees, lower back and neck. Osteoarthritis is known as a degenerative joint disease or “wear and tear” disease where the cartilage on the end of the bone starts to deteriorate or break down. The cartilage is what really provides a cushion in the joints, so once that is lost, there will be a lot of pain at the joints. Osteoarthritis not only affects the cartilage, but also the bones. It can affect the ligaments or the synovium, which is like the lining of the joint itself.
Risk Factors of Osteoarthritis
Age: Persons over 50 have an increased risk of getting osteoarthritis.
Previous injury to a joint: People who have had a broken bone or a torn ligament at a joint (like the knee). There has also been a high incidence of persons that have had an ACL injury presenting with arthritis, usually even younger than age 50.
Overuse injury: Persons who do a lot of repetitive motion or action with a particular joint can end up with osteoarthritis in that joint. This can occur for example in people that do a lot of overhead work developing arthritis in their shoulder(s).
Obesity: Obesity causes extra pressure on the joints. The pressure over time wears out the joints and causes osteoarthritis.
Malalignment of the bones or joints: This relates to the biomechanics of the joints and often occurs at the knees. The kneecap can either be positioned closer together or further apart than what is considered normal. This changes how the weight is distributed at that joint and puts more strain on some structures of the knee joint than they should bear.
Weak muscles at a joint or around a joint: Persons that have issues with their knee or quadricep strength or lack thereof, tend to have an issue with osteoarthritis. If you have issues with the knee buckling, it’s usually due to quadricep muscle weakness. Thankfully, this can be corrected.
Genetics: If you have a family history of osteoarthritis, that predisposes you to having it as well. It is best to start taking some action now so that you can prevent it in your future.
Gender: Women have a higher incidence of osteoarthritis than men.
Environmental factors: Things like occupation, bone density and the level of physical activity can increase your likelihood of getting osteoarthritis. Generally persons that are less active, tend to be the ones that present with the disease.
Symptoms of Arthritis
- Pain or aching at the joint, of course
- Stiffness in the morning
- Limited range of motion: For example, a person may not be able to close their hand all the way or fully straighten their fingers.
- Clicking or popping with bending, like for instance of the knee
- Swelling at a joint
- Muscle weakness
- Joint instability or buckling (of the knee in particular)
A cluster of symptoms, particularly over a period of time are cause for concern and a visit to your primary care physician or an orthopedic surgeon.
What does osteoarthritis feel like in different joints?
- Hip osteoarthritis feels like pain in the groin area or the buttocks, sometimes the inner knee or thigh. It can also go a little bit further down too. It is a radiating pain; the pain is in one place but is felt further away.
- In the knees, osteoarthritis feels like a grating or scraping feeling with movement.
- In the fingers, there can be bone spurs developed at the edge of the bones. These can cause and swelling, tenderness and redness called Heberden’s nodes. It happens because the body is trying to protect or overcompensate for the loss of the cartilage. It starts to lay down layers of extra bone, but the extra bone causes pain.
- Osteoarthritis in the feet can present as pain and tenderness in the big toe or swelling of the ankles or toes. It must be noted that osteoarthritis in the feet could also be mistaken for gout. If these signs become apparent, it is best to get a medical opinion.
- People with osteoarthritis fall more often and are more prone to fracturing a bone with those falls. This is due to the symptoms like instability of the joint and weakness of the muscles. Up to 30% more people fall when they have osteoarthritis and up to 20% of people fracture a bone with those falls.
Exercises to Avoid if you have Osteoarthritis
Therefore, if you have hip osteoarthritis, you may want to avoid exercises that cause you to bend at the hip in lieu of exercises that focus on bending the knees. A lot of the muscles that cross the hip also cross the knees, as such you can use the bending of the knee motion and exercises to still strengthen those same muscles. Another consideration is to avoid exercise on uneven surfaces. It may not be the best to go running on rocky terrain. That’s really going to bother an arthritic hip. You should also avoid doing high impact exercise like step aerobics and plyometric exercises like jumping as they will have adverse effects on the hip joint. Weightlifting exercises will cause extra pressure on your hip joints and will contribute to your pain.
Exercises you can do when you have osteoarthritis
You want to get moving and you want to lose weight. The first step is to check what the appropriate weight is for your height by using a BMI calculator. If the BMI is over 25, this is considered overweight. If it’s over 30, then this is the obese category.
Here are some ideas for how you can get moving:
- Low Impact Exercise
- Tai Chi
- Aquatic Exercise
Find something that you like and stick to it. If you feel sore up to three or more days after exercising, then you’ve overdone it. It may be best to work with a professional who can guide you to safer exercises for your needs.
Hopefully you have gained some insight into osteoarthritis. This disease manifests in different ways based on the parts of the body, and if you should see any of the symptoms, please seek professional advice. Additionally, it is highly encouraged that you to take preventative measures to lessen your chances of developing this disease.