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Osteoarthritis - symptoms, description and treatment

Author MUDr. Peter Bednarčík CSc.

Revision

Detail of osteoarthritis - damaged hip joint
Detail of osteoarthritis - damaged hip joint. 1. Healthy hip joint, 2. Damaged joint with worn cartilage

Do you lead an active life – walking, gardening, sports? Is pain a constant companion makes your activities unpleasant? After the doctor tells you the diagnosis of osteoarthritis, do not feel helpless. Look for ways to manage the illness and not give up your hobbies and joys.

Find out what the causes are, and what treatment options exist. How to suppress the pain that accompanies this disease? Read more here.

Osteoarthritis - symptoms

Symptoms can generally be summarized in four points :

  • Pain,
  • swelling,
  • stiffness,
  • impaired mobility of the joint affected by degenerative joint disease.1

Other symptoms may vary due to the type of arthritis.

  • Patients with osteoarthritis of the cervical spine used to have headaches. Pain can shoot up into the upper limbs.
  • In osteoarthritis of the lumbar spine, lower back pain may be accompanied by lower back spasms. 2
  • Knee osteoarthritis is sometimes accompanied by a feeling of weakness and instability in the knee joint. 3
Notice

Only a doctor can make a correct diagnosis. Do not use this or any other article on the internet to make a diagnosis. Don’t put off seeing a doctor and address your condition early.

Osteoarthritis - Description and causes

Osteoarthritis 2nd grade is the mild stage of the disease
Osteoarthritis 2nd grade is the mild stage of the disease

What is osteoarthritis

It is a degenerative disease and is caused by damage to the articular cartilage. Over time, the cartilage wears down, loses its original elasticity and the joint cannot move as smoothly as in a healthy person. The result is pain, swelling and other discomforts. 4

Arthritis brings pain and various limitations to life. Affected joints prevent natural movement, swell and make getting up in the morning or playing sports uncomfortable.

This disease has several stages depending on its severity. More about the stages in the article Osteoarthritis of the joints.

Osteoarthritis versus arthritis

Although the term osteoarthritis sounds similar to arthritis, it is not the same diagnosis. Arthritis is an inflammatory disease and this group includes, for example, rheumatoid arthritis or ankylosing spondylarthritis (Bechterew’s disease). Osteoarthritis is not caused by inflammation but by the gradual loss of articular cartilage.5

Causes of osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis of the finger - changes in the joints are visible on X-ray
Osteoarthritis of the finger - changes in the joints are visible on X-ray

The main cause is age-related wear and tear of the articular cartilage.

Other factors involved in its occurrence:

  • joint deformities,
  • injuries and joint surgery,
  • overweight and obesity,
  • intense sports activity,
  • physically demanding jobs,
  • family history. 6,7

Types of osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis of the hands can affect the wrists
Osteoarthritis of the hands can affect the wrists

It can damage various joints in the body – hips, knees, shoulders, wrists, small joints in the hands and feet and the spine.

What should you know about the different types? 8

  • Osteoarthritis of the knee
    (gonarthrosis) – damage to the cartilage in the knee is a painful condition and, in addition to the typical morning stiffness of the joint, patients also complain of swelling and a feeling of knee jerking. 9
  • Osteoarthritis of the hip (coxarthrosis) – older age, injuries or excessive weight contribute to its development. Patients observe impaired hip joint mobility. 10
  • Shoulder osteoarthritis (omarthrosis) – damaged cartilage in the shoulder joint causes pain and limited mobility, just like other types of this disease. The severity of joint damage is assessed on a four-grade scale. 11
  • Osteoarthritis of small joints – arthrosis can also affect small joints in the hands and fingers. The typical manifestation is pain in the affected joints and difficulty with mobility. Osteoarthritis of the thumb of the hand has its own name – rhizarthrosis. 12
  • Osteoarthritis of the spine – a degenerative disease in which the vertebral bodies are affected is called spondylosis. If the wear and tear is related to the intervertebral joints, the diagnosis is spondylarthrosis 13,14 Depending on the area of the spine with which the patient has difficulty, a distinction is made between osteoarthritis of the cervical spine and osteoarthritis of the lumbar spine.

Diagnosis of osteoarthritis - how is it detected

When making a diagnosis, the doctor bases it on the description of the symptoms and a physical examination of the affected joint. Imaging methods (X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging, computed tomography) and laboratory tests of blood and urine are also used in the diagnosis . 15

Did you know?

  • It can be a reason for an disability pension. 16
  • It is not always a disease of the elderly; patients include people in their thirties. This is especially true for this degenerative disease of the knee. 17

Complications when left untreated

Untreated cases can lead to a number of complications.

  • Limited mobility. As a result of pain and stiffness, the range of motion of the affected joint may be restricted.
  • Deformation of the joints. In advanced stages, the joints may have a deformed shape.
  • Artificial joint. In some cases, it is necessary to undergo surgery.
  • Risk of falls and injuries. Loss of mobility and pain can increase the risk of falls and therefore other injuries.
Restricted mobility

Restricted mobility

Deformation of joints

Deformation of joints

Operations

Operations

Risk of falls

Risk of falls

Notice

We recommend not postponing treatment

Do not delay treatment and see a specialist if you have any health problems or doubts about your health. This will prevent unnecessary health complications.

Treatment of osteoarthritis

Medicine for arthritis - patients may receive injections of corticosteroids, for example
Medicine for osteoarthritis - patients may receive injections of corticosteroids, for example

The treatment has several basic pillars – pharmacotherapy (drugs), physiotherapy (rehabilitation), exercise and surgery. The different treatments can be combined according to the stage of the disease and the patient’s condition.

This disease cannot be completely cured, the aim of therapy is to relieve pain and promote the best possible joint mobility. 18

  • Medication includes analgesics (painkillers), non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids.
  • In physiotherapy, in addition to various manual techniques, hydrotherapy, electrotherapy and massage are also used.
  • Exercise for arthritis patients focuses on stretching and strengthening.
  • In the most severe cases of advanced arthritis, surgery is used. Partial or total replacement of the affected joint with an artificial one is used, for example, in arthritis of the hip, knee or shoulder .
Notice

Beware

Treatment can only be determined by your doctor after considering your overall health. Therefore, do not use this article as a guide to treatment, which can only be determined by a doctor.

Physical therapy - importance and benefits

The importance of physical therapy lies mainly in supporting the mobility of the affected joint, strengthening the surrounding muscles and improving the patient’s mobility. 22 The physiotherapist knows what exercises will help with specific problems and can also recommend activities for the home environment.

Aerobic activities such as walking, swimming or cycling can help improve your overall fitness. Exercising in water reduces the load on the joints and can be highly effective.

Cold and warm compresses can also provide relief from the symptoms.23

Massage can help in releasing tension, improving circulation.

With this affliction, there is no need to sit at home and wait for the disease to develop. Learn the right techniques for everyday activities and exercises. Keep up to date with the latest information and take an active role in addressing your health concerns.

Regimen measures

Regimen measures are also part of the treatment of arthritis.

  • It is recommended to limit activities that aggravate pain – when affecting the knee it is mainly walking up stairs, in arthritis of the spine the emphasis is on correct posture.
  • For overweight people, it is important to reduce weight. 20
  • An active lifestyle without cigarettes and with a healthy diet also plays a significant role. This should include consuming plenty of vegetables, fish and dairy products. 21
Notice

Important information when dealing with degenerative disease

  • It is a joint disease in which the articular cartilage is damaged. Because of this, the affected joint does not perform its full function.
  • The most common type is osteoarthritis of the knee and hip.
  • Treatment usually involves the use of painkillers, physiotherapy and regimen measures.
  • Degenerative joint disease-related pain should be addressed as early as possible to slow the progression of the disease.
  • The designation osteoarthritis 1 is used to assess the severity of the disease to 4 grades.
  • 4th stage is the most serious stage, which is accompanied by severe pain. At this stage of the disease, surgery is usually resorted to.

Summary and recommendations for dealing with osteoarthritis

1.

See your physician

Treatment is always determined by your doctor based on a general examination, an assessment of your health and an accurate diagnosis.

2.

Causal treatment of osteoarthritis

After a general examination, your doctor will recommend treatment for the cause of your arthritis. They will also advise you on possible lifestyle adjustments and the next course of action.

3.

Relieving pain, swelling and inflammation

Symptomatic treatment focuses on the symptoms of the disease. Such treatment can significantly improve your quality of life and support comprehensive treatment during the course of the disease.

Sources, references and literature

[1] Holland K. Arthrosis vs. Arthritis: What’s the Difference? Healthline, 17. September 2018. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/arthrosis-vs-arthritis

[2] Spondylarthrosis of the spine. MedClinic – Surgery and rehabilitation. Available at: https://medclinic.info/en/blog-en/spondylarthrosis-of-the-spine/

[3] Sheth N. P., Foran J. R. H. Arthritis of the Knee. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, February 2023. Available at: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/arthritis-of-the-knee/

[4] Holland K. Arthrosis vs. Arthritis: What’s the Difference? Healthline, 17. September 2018. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/arthrosis-vs-arthritis

[5] Bailey A. Arthrosis vs. Arthritis: What Are the Differences? Verywell Health, 18. January 2023. Available at: https://www.verywellhealth.com/arthrosis-vs-arthritis-6373935

[6] Bailey A. Arthrosis vs. Arthritis: What Are the Differences? Verywell Health, 18. January 2023. Available at: https://www.verywellhealth.com/arthrosis-vs-arthritis-6373935

[7] McClelland D. Knee osteoarthritis. Bupa, December 2020. Available at: https://www.bupa.co.uk/health-information/knee-pain/knee-osteoarthritis

[8] Holland K. Arthrosis vs. Arthritis: What’s the Difference? Healthline, 17. September 2018. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/arthrosis-vs-arthritis

[9] Sheth N. P., Foran J. R. H. Arthritis of the Knee. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, February 2023. Available at: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/arthritis-of-the-knee/

[10] Bailey A. Arthrosis vs. Arthritis: What Are the Differences? Verywell Health, 18. January 2023. Available at: https://www.verywellhealth.com/arthrosis-vs-arthritis-6373935

[11] Knipe H. Kellgren and Lawrence system for classification of osteoarthritis. 15. September 2021. Available at: https://radiopaedia.org/articles/kellgren-and-lawrence-system-for-classification-of-osteoarthritis

[12] Hand Pain and Problem. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Available at: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/hand-pain-and-problems

[13] Spondylosis, Spondyloarthrosis. Spine Tech – Neck & Back Specialists. Available at: http://www.spinetech.ca/spondylosis-spondyloarthrosis/.

[14] Spondylarthrosis of the spine. MedClinic – Surgery and rehabilitation. Available at: https://medclinic.info/en/blog-en/spondylarthrosis-of-the-spine/

[15] Bailey A. Arthrosis vs. Arthritis: What Are the Differences? Verywell Health, 18. January 2023. Available at: https://www.verywellhealth.com/arthrosis-vs-arthritis-6373935

[16] Disability pension. Czech Social Security Administration. Available at: https://www.cssz.cz/invalidni-duchod

[17] Hsu H., Siwiec R. M. Knee Osteoarthritis. StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; January 2023. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507884/

[18] Natural Relief for Arthritis Pain. Arthritis Foundation. Available at: https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/healthy-living/managing-pain/pain-relief-solutions/natural-relief-for-arthritis-pain

[19] Bailey A. Arthrosis vs. Arthritis: What Are the Differences? Verywell Health, 18. January 2023. Available at: https://www.verywellhealth.com/arthrosis-vs-arthritis-6373935

[20] Sheth N. P., Foran J. R. H. Arthritis of the Knee. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, February 2023. Available at: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/arthritis-of-the-knee/

[21] Barrell A. What is the best diet for osteoarthritis. Medical News Today, 28. January 2020. Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322603#foods-to-eat

[22] Bailey A. Arthrosis vs. Arthritis: What Are the Differences? Verywell Health, 18. January 2023. Available at: https://www.verywellhealth.com/arthrosis-vs-arthritis-6373935

[23] Bailey A. Arthrosis vs. Arthritis: What Are the Differences? Verywell Health, 18. January 2023. Available at: https://www.verywellhealth.com/arthrosis-vs-arthritis-6373935

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