How to prevent osteoarthritis

POSTED: 09:31 AM MST Nov 20, 2012    UPDATED: 09:52 AM MST Dec 05, 2012 
Elderly hands

By Pure Matters

Osteoarthritis (OA), sometimes called degenerative arthritis, is the most common type of arthritis. In OA, the cartilage that covers the bones in a joint thins and, in some cases, wears away entirely. This leaves bone rubbing against bone, which can cause inflammation. The inflammation causes swelling and pain, and eventually distorts the originally smooth surface of the joints. Bits of bone or cartilage can break off and float inside the joint space. This causes pain and interferes with the joint movement. Sometimes, bone spurs, called osteophytes, grow on the edges of the joint.

Can you prevent OA?

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! The less unnecessary stress you put on your joints, the less likely they are to wear out prematurely. Keep your weight under control. When working and exercising, try to use good posture, and if a joint starts to bother you, rest it immediately. Your health care provider may be able to offer suggestions to minimize your risk for joint injury.

The Arthritis Foundation makes the following recommendations to protect joints and prevent osteoarthritis:

Making an accurate diagnosis

Symptoms of OA include stiffness in a joint after a period of immobility, swelling in a joint, and hearing noise or feeling a crunch when a joint moves.

It's important to see your doctor if you have joint pain, especially in your hip joints, knee joints, or fingers. Your doctor will evaluate the history of your pain and perform a physical examination to clearly diagnose arthritis and what type it is. X-rays may be taken to look for cartilage loss, bone damage, and bone spurs. If an X-ray does not show a cause for the pain, an MRI may be done to look for damage to other joint tissues such as a ligaments. This is important because OA treatment differs from that for other forms of arthritis.

A number of other conditions can affect your joints, and only your health care provider can help you determine what type of arthritis you have. Once the diagnosis of OA is made, it is important to understand that there's no cure. With your doctor's help, you can effectively manage this chronic condition.

Managing osteoarthritis

The goals for treatment of OA are to decrease pain, improve joint function, and prevent further damage. Once the diagnosis of OA is made, your health care provider may suggest some of the following: