Understanding Osteoarthritis

Understanding Osteoarthritis

If you experience the painful symptoms of osteoarthritis (OA), you’re certainly not alone. The CDC says more than 32.5 million Americans have osteoarthritis, making it by far the most common type of arthritis.

Finding meaningful long-term relief for arthritis symptoms can be challenging. At Spruce Health Groupour team works closely with individuals, designing custom care plans based on every person’s unique symptoms, health histories, lifestyles, and other factors.

Here’s what you should know about osteoarthritis and how it’s treated at our practices in Golden, Aurora, Thornton, Littleton, Greeley, Boulder, and Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Osteoarthritis basics

Unlike other types of arthritis that occur as a symptom of another underlying medical issue, osteoarthritis is caused by damage to the joint surfaces, either from a traumatic injury or from years of wear and tear.

In healthy joints, these surfaces are protected by a thick layer of slick cartilage. This layer allows joints to move smoothly, without pain or friction. When the cartilage begins to wear down, your joints don’t move as smoothly. Eventually, the joint can become inflamed, increasing painful symptoms. As the disease progresses, you might notice other symptoms, including:

  • Joint stiffness or reduced range of movement
  • Swelling around the joint
  • Tenderness when you press the surrounding area
  • Clicking or crackling sounds when you bend the joint

Most people with OA find their symptoms feel worse at the end of the day or after prolonged movement. Any joint can be affected, although OA is more common in the joints that bear a lot of weight and those used the most.

Not surprisingly, osteoarthritis becomes more common with age as years of joint use take their toll on the joint surfaces and components.

But osteoarthritis can happen in younger people, too, especially athletes and others who put a lot of strain on their joints.

Treating osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis develops over a long time — typically several years. Gradually, you’ll probably notice your joint discomfort getting worse. Symptoms that were once mild and occasional now occur more often, last longer, and hurt more than they used to.

That’s because OA is a degenerative disease, meaning it can continue to get worse over time. Getting early treatment is important for relieving your symptoms and for slowing the progression of the disease.

Before prescribing any treatment for OA, our team performs a thorough physical exam, along with X-rays and lab work, if needed. If you’re at risk for osteoporosis, we may recommend a simple screening test called a DEXA scan to measure your bone density.

Once we have a complete picture of your OA, we’ll work with you to create a treatment plan that might include:

Offering a variety of treatment options means your therapy can be customized for your needs, even as your symptoms change over time. Many people benefit from a combination of treatments to address multiple symptoms or risk factors.

Early treatment is essential to better outcomes

Because OA is a degenerative disease, the sooner you begin treatment, the faster you can find relief for pain, stiffness, and other joint symptoms. If you have osteoarthritis or you’re experiencing unusual joint symptoms, call the office or book an appointment online today.