Arthritis is an inevitable part of the aging. It affects 1 in 3 people worldwide. Age-related arthritis usually starts at about 40 with increasing incidence as one gets older. The more joints it affects the more likely it may become disabling and painful. The joints most commonly affected are the hands and feet followed by weight bearing joints like the hip and knee. The spine is also affected causing low back pain, one of the top five reasons for doctor visits.
Arthritis, also called degenerative joint disease (DJD), is just that – degeneration of bone surfaces from years of wear and tear and or occupational overuse. Over time joint spaces throughout the body become narrow and less mobile leading to a progressive decline in affected joints. The narrowing of the joint spaces involves an inflammatory process. Severe degeneration causes bone surfaces to rub against one another in places where cartilage and synovium used to be. All of this can lead to disabling pain and limited movement.
Symptoms of arthritis include stiffness, pain, and joint swelling. This can lead to decreased, limited movement affecting your activities of daily living. If arthritis worsens, it can lead to mobility issues and may require surgery. Chronic, debilitating pain may also make all activities more difficult and less enjoyable.
Is this avoidable? No. Is it treatable? Yes. Some studies postulate that cartilage damage induced by inflammatory arthritis that chondroitin sulfate may at least delay progression. Antiflammatory medications like aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) help with inflammation and pain. Further pain contol may be achieved with narcotics which are potentially addictive. Dietary adjustments include increase calcium and Vitamin D.
The most beneficial treatment is movement. When it’s hard to move, efforts to move must be made to keep from moving even less. Ironically so, when you feel like you are having a hard time moving, it’s time to keep moving! Ask your doctor for an orthopedic doctor consult and a physical therapy evaluation for treatment. You will be able to implement your own home exercise program.