More than 92 million people in the United States have doctor-diagnosed arthritis or arthritis symptoms, namely joint pain and inflammation. Of this total, a majority of arthritis sufferers have osteoarthritis (OA), which is a degenerative disease that can develop in any of your joints, but tends to target those that are most active.
When it comes to OA, there are certain factors that place you more at risk for developing the disease, as well as factors that can exacerbate existing arthritis — and they’re often the same.
The exact cause of osteoarthritis is the breakdown of cartilage, which is a slippery tissue that enables smooth movement between the bones in your joint. As the cartilage breaks down, your unprotected bones can rub together, which leads to the hallmarks of arthritis — joint pain and inflammation.
Now that we understand the direct cause of OA, let’s take a look at three common factors that place you more at risk for developing this disease (as well as worsening existing OA).
At its core, OA is a degenerative disease that develops as a result of wear and tear. Your joints serve you well throughout your life, but the workload can add up, especially in those joints you rely on the most, such as your:
Of course, OA can develop in any articulating joint, but these are some of the more common locations.
As time goes by, the repetitive stress can add up and slowly cause your cartilage to deteriorate. Please note that OA isn’t inevitable — everyone experiences wear and tear in their joints as they age, but not everyone develops OA.
It’s no coincidence that the prevalence of obesity in the US is more than 42% and more than 92 million people in the US have joint pain and inflammation. Your musculoskeletal structure is designed to carry a certain amount of weight, and when you add to that weight, your joints take the brunt of the extra workload.
Perhaps you broke an ankle a while back or you damaged your knee playing sports. These types of injuries tend to rear up again in the form of OA as you get older.
There are other factors that can place you more at risk for OA, such as a family history of the disease, but we wanted to focus on those factors that are within your power to mitigate.
Whether you’ve already developed OA or you’re concerned that you’re at risk, understanding the risk factors above can help you better manage (and even ward off) this form of joint disease. For example, if you’re in your 20s, 30s, or 40s and you have obesity, tackling the weight problem now can save you from early onset OA.
By the same token, if you’re concerned about wear and tear, especially in those joints that were previously injured, we can help you take steps to safeguard these joints. Through bracing, physical therapy, and reducing the burden on these joints, you can slow the degeneration of your cartilage.
Should joint pain and inflammation develop regardless of your efforts, we can help restore pain-free movement in your joints with intra-articular injections, which contain a pain-relieving agent, as well as an anti-inflammatory agent.
If you’d like to learn more about your risks for OA and/or your treatment options, make an appointment with one of our pain management experts at a location near you. We have offices in St. Matthews, Elizabethtown, Lexington, Crestview Hills, Owensboro, and London, Kentucky. Indiana offices are in Evansville, Vincennes, New Albany, Carrollton, and Jasper. We also serve patients in Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati, Ohio.