Millions of Americans suffer from 1osteoarthritis, a debilitating condition that wears away the cartilage that protects and cushions the joints. It is the leading cause of disability in people over the age of 55 – but it doesn’t have to be.
As we get older, we experience increased wear and tear on our joints, particularly the knees and hips. But today there are treatments available for osteoarthritis that can increase joint function, minimize discomfort and allow people to resume their normal daily activities.
Who is at Risk?
Those at particular risk include:
- people with a family history of osteoarthritis
- the elderly
- those who are overweight
- those with previous joint injuries
The first signs may be stiffness or swelling in the hips, knees, fingers, elbows, wrists, feet or spine. As the cartilage continues to wear away, this pain grows worse, impeding the ability to flex the joint. X-rays and a physical examination are needed to confirm a diagnosis of osteoarthritis.
How is it Treated?
While this condition cannot be reversed, early therapy is key to improving function and preventing further joint deterioration. For mild cases of osteoarthritis, reduced activity and over-the-counter pain relievers are usually the first line of defense. Glucosamine sulfate, a nutritional supplement, has been shown to slow the progression of the disease.
Exercise and physical or occupational therapy can also help to strengthen the muscles around the effected joint and reduce stress on joints. Rehabilitative services at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset include:
- strengthening exercises
- manual therapies to improve range of motion
- deep heating
- paraffin treatments
- assistance with using adaptive equipment, such as walkers
Those with osteoarthritis in his or her knees can also receive viscosupplementation, a series of injections of hyaluronic acid to lubricate the knee joint. Joint replacement surgery may be necessary in people with advanced osteoarthritis and when other treatment modalities are no longer effective.
For patients with osteoarthritis in their knees, there is also a minimally-invasive surgical alternative available at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset. Unicompartmental knee surgery results in faster recoveries than traditional total knee replacement. It is an option for osteoarthritis patients who only have one knee compartment that is damaged.
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