By Dr Tony Setiobudi BMedSci, MBBS, MRCS, MMed (Ortho), FRCS (Ortho)
What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis refers to damage or breakdown of the joint cartilage (the soft tissue that covers the joint’s surface) between bones. When it wears out, bones rub against each other, causing pain, redness, swelling, and stiffness. It occurs most often in the hands, knees, hips, and spine. Osteoarthritis occurs most often in older people, although it may occur in adults of any age. Osteoarthritis is the most common joint disorder.
Osteoarthritis is caused by joint cartilage damage. Repetitive stress accumulates on the joints as you grow older and hence the elderly are the ones who are most likely to suffer from it.
Other causes of joint damage are past injuries such as torn cartilage, dislocated joints, or ligament injuries. Obesity and poor posture also can cause osteoarthritis.
- 50% of adults ages 65 and older suffer from osteoarthritis.
- Being overweight or obese increases the risk for osteoarthritis as the extra weight puts stress on joints causing more wear and tear.
- It tends to run in families
- Injury or overuse. Severe injury to a joint can lead to osteoarthritis. Injury may also result from overuse or misuse over time.
There are ways to slow the progression:
There’s no cure for osteoarthritis, but the condition does not necessarily get any worse over time. There are several ways to slow the progression of osteoarthritis.
Exercise is the best medicine to strengthen the muscles around your joints and help to relieve stiffness. For example, you can switch from running to cycling or swimming.
- Weight maintenance
Maintaining weight is also another key to slowing arthritis. Being overweight can put a strain on your joints and cause pain. Carrying less weight usually means feeling less pain because it helps relieve the pressure.
These may include pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medicines. May be taken by mouth as a pill or rubbed on the skin as a cream.
Your doctor may offer steroid injections when conventional treatments are ineffective. The injection will be made directly into the affected area. Steroid injections work quickly and can ease the pain for several weeks or months.
- Joint surgery
Surgery for osteoarthritis is only needed in a small number of cases if other treatments as mentioned above have not been effective or when one of your joints is severely damaged. Joint replacement surgery is very effective to reduce the pain and restore the functions of the joint. It is important to know your health check early so your osteoarthritis can be treated as early as possible. You may check if you have a risk of osteoporosis here
Dr Tony Setiobudi is an Orthopaedic & Spine Surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Hospital (Orchard), Singapore. He treats bone, joint, muscle and ligament problems in adults and children. He has a special interest in nerve compression and spine problems such as back & neck pain, scoliosis, kyphosis, spine tumor & infection, spinal cord injury, osteoporosis fracture, spinal stenosis and slipped disc.