Osteoarthritis: Treatment, Symptoms, Causes, Types | Advil

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Osteoarthritis

Male smiling after being pain free from headache

Osteoarthritis

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and it affects a significant population of people all over the world.1 Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition that worsens over time leading to difficulty performing everyday activities.2

A joint is a structure within the body that allows movement between two bones.3 The cartilage is the cushioning that covers the ends of the two bones, helping absorb shock and assisting in smooth movements.4

Osteoarthritis occurs when the protective cartilage at the end of the bones breaks down, causing pain, swelling and limited movements in the joint.5,6

The joints most commonly affected by osteoarthritis are those that are weight-bearing joints and they include:7

  • Knees (can sometimes be injury related)
  • Hips (elderly are more at risk)
  • Spine (neck or lower back)
  • Hands (finger joints)

Statistics on osteoarthritis

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare:8

  • 1 in 11 (9%) have osteoarthritis
  • 2 in 3 of the reported people with osteoarthritis are female
  • 1 in 4 people with osteoarthritis reported that their health is either fair or poor (26%)

Who gets osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis affects about 2.1 million Australians (9%) according to a self-reported survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in 2015.9 Among these Australians, females are more commonly affected by osteoarthritis than males.10

The prevalence of osteoarthritis tends to rise with age and the condition is predominately experienced by people aged 45 years and over.11,12 Nevertheless, some younger people can also have osteoarthritis.13

What are the different types of osteoarthritis pain?

Osteoarthritis can affect many joints throughout the body. The joints where the pain is experienced can pinpoint to the type of osteoarthritis being experienced. Some of the joints where osteoarthritis is commonly felt include:14

  • Knee (sometimes due to an old injury or gradual degeneration of the joint)
  • Hips (elderly are more at risk)
  • Spine (the neck and lower back are prone to osteoarthritis)
  • Hands (end finger joints tend to be prone to osteoarthritis)

What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis?

The osteoarthritis symptoms vary according to the individual and the joint that is affected. Osteoarthritis symptoms can often develop over time, but symptoms can also be constant throughout the later stages of osteoarthritis.15 Some of the common osteoarthritis symptoms include:16

  • Pain – joints may hurt during and after movement
  • Tenderness – joints may feel tender after applying light pressure
  • Stiffness – joints may be noticeably stiff early in the morning or after inactivity
  • Loss of flexibility – joints may not have a complete range of motion
  • Grating sensation – joints may produce grating sound, feeling or sensation
  • Bone spurs – extra bits of bone creating hard lumps around the affected joint

What causes osteoarthritis and what are the risk factors?

The exact cause of osteoarthritis is still unknown. 17 Nevertheless, there are a range of different factors that are known to contribute to osteoarthritis. These factors include: 18,19

  • Age – risk of osteoarthritis increases with age
  • Sex – females are more likely to develop osteoarthritis
  • Weight – being obese or overweight contribute to osteoarthritis in several ways
  • Injuries – previous joint injury and/or history of overused joints
  • Genetics – family history of osteoarthritis
  • Certain occupations – repetitive stress on particular jobs through tasks can increase risk of osteoarthritis

How do you diagnose osteoarthritis?

Different conditions can cause joint pain and each condition requires a different type of treatment.20 This is why it is important to visit a doctor for diagnosis. A doctor may do the following to determine whether or not osteoarthritis is affecting the joints:21

  • Ask about the symptoms
  • Examine the joints
  • Request an x-ray
  • Request a MRI
  • Request a blood test
  • Request joint fluid analysis
  • Refer to a specialist

What options are there for osteoarthritis treatment?

There is no known cure for osteoarthritis. However, there are osteoarthritis treatment methods to help relieve symptoms. 22 Osteoarthritis treatment methods may vary depending on which joint is affected (type of osteoarthritis) and the severity of the symptoms. 23 Below are some osteoarthritis treatment methods that may help relieve some symptoms: 24

  • Exercise programs to help with movement difficulties
  • Weight loss programs
  • Simple NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) pain relief medication like ibuprofen

Osteoarthritis is a chronic condition often making every day activities difficult.25 While osteoarthritis can be self-managed with medication like over-the-counter NSAIDs including ibuprofen, it is always best to consult your doctor. 26

Ibuprofen is the active ingredient in a range of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines in Australia.27 NSAIDs are commonly used to manage mild to moderate pain and inflammation. 28

Ibuprofen assists with blocking a specific enzyme called cyclooxygenase (or COX) which is used in the production of prostaglandins.29 Prostaglandins are chemicals generated by the body which cause inflammation, pain and fever by increasing the temperature and dilating the blood vessels at the location they are released from.30 By blocking the production of prostaglandins, NSAIDs and ibuprofen can help relieve the pain, inflammation and fever. 31

It is important to follow all instructions on a medicine label. If you are unsure whether you should take ibuprofen, first consult your pharmacist or doctor for more advice.

If you are experiencing any complications, it is best to visit your doctor for further recommendations on how to relieve osteoarthritis pain symptoms.

How can I prevent osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is not preventable, but minimising the risk of developing the condition is possible. Below are some options to help minimise the risk of getting osteoarthritis: 32

  • Looking after your joints (regular exercise, swimming and cycling, maintain good posture)
  • Keeping muscles strong
  • Losing weight (if applicable)

How can I manage osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis can be managed by incorporating exercise and weight loss regimes and in extreme cases, surgery. 33

Osteoarthritis and exercise

Exercise can help maximise healthy cartilage, maintain good joint movement and improve muscle strength.34 Performing the activities such as the following can help:35

  • Maintain flexibility, reversing the results of arthritis
  • Strengthening muscles which will support sore joints

Exercises such as walking, swimming and tai chi can help strengthen muscles, increase joint flexibility and support and improve balance and coordination.36

Other ways to manage osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis can be managed in various ways. Some of these alternative osteoarthritis treatment methods include: 37

  • Education and self-management – increasing the understanding of the condition can help manage it
  • Weight management – safe weight loss strategies can help osteoarthritis affected joints
  • Medication – OTC NSAIDs and other OTC pain relief medication can help relieve the symptoms
  • Relaxation techniques – meditation, massages and other muscle relaxations help manage pain and anxiety associated with the condition
  • Support – seeking support from family, friends and health professionals can help
  • Patella taping, knee braces and orthotics – seek advice from a physiotherapist or podiatrist
  • Equipment that helps independence – joint and muscle aids can reduce the strain on joints

Where can I get help for osteoarthritis?

The best places to get help include:

  • Your doctor
  • Your pharmacist
  • Your physiotherapist

References:

  1. 1 Mayo Clinic, Osteoarthritis, [Accessed 03 February 2017] http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/osteoarthritis/home/ovc-20198248
  2. 2 Australian Institute of Health & Welfare, Osteoarthritis, [Accessed 03 February 2017] http://www.aihw.gov.au/osteoarthritis/who-gets-osteoarthritis/
    1. 3NHS UK, Osteoarthritis, [Accessed 03 February 2017] http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Osteoarthritis/Pages/Introduction.aspx#
    2. 4 Better Health Channel, Osteoarthritis, [Accessed 03 February 2017] https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/osteoarthritis
    3. 5 Mayo Clinic, Osteoarthritis, [Accessed 03 February 2017] http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/osteoarthritis/home/ovc-20198248
    4. 6 NHS UK, Osteoarthritis, [Accessed 03 February 2017] http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Osteoarthritis/Pages/Introduction.aspx#
    5. 7Better Health Channel, Osteoarthritis, [Accessed 03 February 2017] https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/osteoarthritis
    6. 8Australian Institute of Health & Welfare, Osteoarthritis, [Accessed 03 February 2017] http://www.aihw.gov.au/osteoarthritis/who-gets-osteoarthritis/
    7. 9Australian Institute of Health & Welfare, Who gets osteoarthritis?, [Accessed 03 February 2017] http://www.aihw.gov.au/osteoarthritis/who-gets-osteoarthritis/
    8. 10 Australian Institute of Health & Welfare, Who gets osteoarthritis?, [Accessed 03 February 2017] http://www.aihw.gov.au/osteoarthritis/who-gets-osteoarthritis/
      1. 11 Better Health Channel, Osteoarthritis, [Accessed 03 February 2017] https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/osteoarthritis
      2. 12 Australian Institute of Health & Welfare, Who gets osteoarthritis?, [Accessed 03 February 2017] http://www.aihw.gov.au/osteoarthritis/who-gets-osteoarthritis/
      3. 13 Better Health Channel, Osteoarthritis, [Accessed 03 February 2017] https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/osteoarthritis
      4. 14 Better Health Channel, Osteoarthritis, [Accessed 03 February 2017] https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/osteoarthritis
      5. 15 painHEALTH, Osteoarthritis, [Accessed 03 February 2017] https://painhealth.csse.uwa.edu.au/pain-condition-oesteoarthritis.html
      6. 16 Mayo Clinic, Osteoarthritis, [Accessed 03 February 2017] http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/osteoarthritis/symptoms-causes/dxc-20198250
      7. 17 painHEALTH, Osteoarthritis, [Accessed 03 February 2017] https://painhealth.csse.uwa.edu.au/pain-condition-oesteoarthritis.html
      8. 18 painHEALTH, Osteoarthritis, [Accessed 03 February 2017] https://painhealth.csse.uwa.edu.au/pain-condition-oesteoarthritis.html
      9. 19Mayo Clinic, Osteoarthritis, [Accessed 03 February 2017] http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/osteoarthritis/symptoms-causes/dxc-20198250
      10. 20 Better Health Channel, Osteoarthritis, [Accessed 03 February 2017] https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/osteoarthritis
        1. 21 Better Health Channel, Osteoarthritis, [Accessed 03 February 2017] https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/osteoarthritis
        2. 22Health Direct, Osteoarthritis Treatment, [Accessed 03 February 2017] https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/osteoarthritis-treatments
        3. 23 Arthritis NSW, Osteoarthritis, [Accessed 03 February 2017] http://arthritisnsw.org.au/arthritis/information-sheets/osteoarthritis/
        4. 24 Arthritis NSW, Osteoarthritis, [Accessed 03 February 2017] http://arthritisnsw.org.au/arthritis/information-sheets/osteoarthritis/
        5. 25Better Health Channel, Osteoarthritis, [Accessed 03 February 2017] https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/osteoarthritis
        6. 26Pain Health, Osteoarthritis, [Accessed 03 February 2017] https://painhealth.csse.uwa.edu.au/pain-condition-oesteoarthritis.html
        7. 27NPS Australia, Ibuprofen for pain and fever, [Accessed 11 January 2017] http://www.nps.org.au/medicines/muscles-bones-and-joints/anti-inflammatory-medicines-nsaids/ibuprofen
        8. 28Better Health Channel, Medications – non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, [Accessed 11 January 2017] https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/medications-non-steroidal-anti-inflammatory-drugs
          1. 29Better Health Channel, Medications – non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, [Accessed 11 January 2017] https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/medications-non-steroidal-anti-inflammatory-drugs
          2. 30Better Health Channel, Medications – non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, [Accessed 11 January 2017] https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/medications-non-steroidal-anti-inflammatory-drugs
          3. 31 Better Health Channel, Medications – non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, [Accessed 11 January 2017] https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/medications-non-steroidal-anti-inflammatory-drugs
          4. 32Health Direct, Osteoarthritis, [Accessed 03 February 2017]https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/osteoarthritis-prevention
          5. 33Better Health Channel, Osteoarthritis, [Accessed 03 February 2017] https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/osteoarthritis
          6. 34Better Health Channel, Osteoarthritis, [Accessed 03 February 2017] https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/osteoarthritis
          7. 35Better Health Channel, Osteoarthritis, [Accessed 03 February 2017]https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/osteoarthritis
          8. 36Better Health Channel, Osteoarthritis, [Accessed 03 February 2017] https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/osteoarthritis
          9. 37Better Health Channel, Osteoarthritis, [Accessed 03 February 2017] https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/osteoarthritis