November and December are my two favorite months of the year. I enjoy all the Thanksgiving and Christmas parties and festivities, eating lots of food, opening presents, and visiting friends and family. Arthritis AKA “Arthur” is one friend that likes to visit many people around this time of year as the weather gets colder and winter begins. Unfortunately, he is not a welcomed visitor and causes many people alot of pain and immobility.

Sometimes called degenerative joint disease or “wear and tear” arthritis, osteoarthritis is the most common chronic condition of the joints. It occurs when the cartilage or cushion between joints breaks down leading to pain, stiffness and swelling. Osteoarthritis can affect any joint, but it occurs most often in knees, hips, lower back and neck, small joints of the fingers and the bases of the thumb and big toe. The most common symptoms of osteoarthritis are stiffness, particularly first thing in the morning or after resting, and pain. Affected joints may get swollen after extended activity. Osteoarthritis has no specific cause. Several factors lead to the development of OA including excess weight, injury or overuse and genetics. The diagnosis of osteoarthritis includes a medical history and a physical examination. These may be followed by laboratory tests, X-rays, and a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.

Osteoarthritis is a chronic (long-term) disease. There is no cure, but treatments are available to manage symptoms. Long-term management of the disease will include several factors which include: managing symptoms, such as pain, stiffness and swelling, improving joint mobility and flexibility, maintaining a healthy weight, and exercise. Medications such as Acetaminophen, Opioids, NSAIDS, and topical NSAIDS can be used to help with pain. Corticosteroids can also be taken by mouth or injected directly into the joint. These cortisone injections are performed every 3-4 months as needed for pain relief. Hyaluronic acid occurs naturally in joint fluid, acting as a shock absorber and lubricant. It comes in an injectable form and is typically given in a series of 3 or 5 injections which are given each week for 3 or 5 weeks to provide lubrication in the joint and relieve pain. If patients are not improving with conservative measures, joint surgery can repair or replace severely damaged joints, especially hips or knees. In joint replacement surgery (arthroplasty), damaged joint surfaces are removed and replaced with plastic and metal parts.

Nearly 21 million American’s age 25 and older have osteoarthritis, which is 12.1 percent of the U.S. population. Of those 21 million American’s, two-thirds of them are under age 65 and almost half of people 65 years old or older have arthritis. Don’t be one of the 21 million who suffer from arthritis, come see us at Seven Springs Orthopaedics and we will get you feeling better in time for the Holidays!!

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