As an Osteopath, one of the common conditions that we see is Osteoarthritis or OA. OA is the most common type of arthritis which affects nearly five million Canadians or 1 in 6 people. So what is Osteoarthritis? OA is described as a progressive disease of the whole joint that leads to breakdown of joint cartilage and the underlying bone. And used to be described as degeneration or “wear-and-tear”, but recent studies have described it as a result of the body’s failed attempt to repair damaged joint tissues, as the body lays down more bone to protect itself.
So who gets OA? Osteoarthritis does not discriminate against race or sex, however according to the World Health Organization, Women are more likely to get osteoarthritis than men at a 2:1 ratio. This is most likely due to hormonal and bio-mechanical differences.
There are a number of risk factors than may influence and increase the risk of a person’s chance of developing osteoarthritis beginning with; Age, sex, family history, excess weight, previous joint injuries, some occupations, Joint misalignment/deformities, muscle weakness and a sedentary lifestyle.
What are the signs and symptoms of OA?
The most common presenting complaint is pain, which generally gets progressively worse over months to years. The joint pain or joint stiffness may may last up to 30 minutes or until the joints warm up and is typically worse in the morning or after long periods of inactivity. The most common places of pain are typically weight bearing joint such as the knees, hips and spine, although OA can occur at any joint in the body. OA symptoms may also disrupt your sleeping patterns, which can make your symptoms feel worse, and alter your mood.
How is Osteoarthritis Diagnosed?
There is no specific test for the diagnosis OA. A diagnosis is made based off a patients extensive medical history and physical examination findings. However, there are imaging techniques such as x-rays that can be useful in determining the progression of a patient’s OA.
However, it is important to remember, that a patient’s symptoms do not always match what is found on x-rays. For example, in a patient with early OA, your x-ray may show no evidence that reflects the patients symptoms they are experiencing. On the other hand a patient can have severe OA on a x-ray, but present with minor pain. Which is why it is important to take an individual approach to every patient.
Is there a Cure?
There is currently no cure for OA. However, it is very important to remember that there are ways to manage a patients symptoms and improve their function. A treatment approach is generally centred around a combination of stretches/ massage, physical exercises, weight management and medications, which can be a useful way to help patients control there pain levels. In extreme cases a referral to a healthcare professional specializing in orthopaedic care may be needed.
Remember if you have any other questions please don’t hesitate to ask one of your friendly osteopaths
Written by: Brendan Ashman