Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis as it affects millions of people globally. It can affect many tissues in the body. It is also called Degenerate joint disease (DJC) or “Wear and Tear arthritis”.  Osteoarthritis mostly affects older people but sometimes can affects adults of any age. It is the leading cause of disability in older adults.

  OA affects the cartilage which is the protective tissue the end of the bones.  OA causes the breakdown of the cartilage thereby making bones in a joint to rub against one. This can result in pain, stiffness and difficulty in movement. OA can make it difficult for some people to carry out their daily activities.

OA can affect any joint in the body but there are places in the body it mostly affects and this include:

  • Hands
  • Knees
  • Shoulder
  • Fingers
  • Hips
  • Neck
  • Back

Signs and symptoms of Osteoarthritis

The signs and symptoms of OA include:

  • Pains after long period of inactivity or during activity
  • Soreness and joint ache experienced during movement
  • Stiffness of joint which usually occurs in the mornings.
  • Swelling around joints
  • Cracking or grating sound when moving the affected parts
  • Tenderness of joints
  • Muscle weakness around joints

Causes of Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is caused when the cartilage that cushions the ends of bones begins to break down thereby leading to friction between two bones at a joint. Cartilage helps to prevent bones from rubbing on one another.

Risk factors of osteoarthritis

There are several factors that can make a person to develop osteoarthritis. These factors include:

  • Age: As people get older the chances of developing osteoarthritis becomes higher. Osteoarthritis may show up from late 40s and above. During aging the body begins to experience changes which can lead to OA.
  • Gender: Osteoarthritis affects both a male and female but women are at a greater risk of developing osteoarthritis.
  • Heredity: When a person inherits a defective gene that is needed for the formation of a cartilage, a defective cartilage will be formed which will cause the joints to deteriorate which can lead to OA.
  • Obesity: Being obese increases the chances of developing osteoarthritis of the spine, knee, and hip. So to prevent the development of osteoarthritis a healthy weight should be maintain
  • Overuse of joints: When people engage in jobs that makes them overuse certain joints in the body like bending the knee repeatedly are at very high risk of developing OA.
  • Injury: Injuries can increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis. For instance footballers who get injured on the knees have a higher risk of developing OA. Also when a person breaks a bone close to a joint or have severe back injury, the risk of developing osteoarthritis will be very high.
  • Bone deformities: People who are born with malfunctioned joints or a deformed cartilage are at a greater risk of developing osteoarthritis.
  • Other joint diseases: Diseases like rheumatoid arthritis which is another joint disease can increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis. The excess production of the growth hormone by the pituitary gland and excess iron increases the chance of developing osteoarthritis.

Diagnosis of Osteoarthritis

Diagnosing osteoarthritis can be very hard in the early stages until it begins to cause painful and discomforting symptoms.

Physical examination:  The doctor will ask you questions about the symptoms you are having and examine your joints for signs of swelling and stiffness and other symptoms of OA.

Xrays:  X- rays can be used to see bone or joint damage or any changes that are associated with osteoarthritis

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): This can be used to get a better view of the cartilage and joints.

Blood tests: Blood tests can be carried out to rule out other types of arthritis.

Treatment of osteoarthritis

There is no cure for osteoarthritis but some medications and therapy can be used to ease pains. If these methods fail and the condition does not improve then surgical operation should be conducted as a last resort.


The medications that can be used to reduce the pain of osteoarthritis include:

  • Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs are drugs that are commonly used to relieve pains and inflammation. They are available over the counter (OTC). Examples of these drugs include ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen.
  • Analgesics: These are pain relievers that can be used to reduce the pain of osteoarthritis. Examples of analgesics are Acetaminophen, Codeine, Fentanyi, Meperidine, Oxycodone, Methadone, Hydrocodone, Naloxone or Naltrexone. The best analgesic is Acetaminophen.
  • Corticosteroids: These are drugs that can used to treat the inflammation which comes with osteoarthritis. The medicine can be injected by a doctor or taken in through the mouth.
  • Counterirritants:  These are drugs that when taken makes the painful area feel cold or warm or itching which will take the person’s mind away from the pain. It does this by irritating the nerve endings. Counterirritants include menthol, lidocaine and capsaicin. These are all over the counter drugs (OTC).

Non drug therapies

These are practices and behavioral changes that should be developed to speed up recovery from osteoarthritis. They include:

  • Exercise:   When you engage in physical exercise the muscles around the joint will become strengthen which will help relieve stiffness of the joint. Do not engage in strenuous exercise which can worsen the condition but rather engage in gentle and low impact activities like walking and swimming, yoga. They can improve joint flexibility and reduce pain.
  • Weight loss: it is very important to lose weight if you are overweight. This is because excessive weight puts extra stress on joints that bears the weight of the body like the hip, knee, back, ankle and feet. When you lose weight there will be a reduction of pain and damage to the joint.
  • Sleep:  Adequate sleep is very necessary for getting relief from osteoarthritis. When you rest swelling and inflammation can be reduced. So get adequate sleep in the night so as to manage pain adequately.
  • Heat and cold therapy:  Applying a hot or cold compress to sore joints for 15 to 20 minutes several times a day can help to relieve muscle pain and the stiffness of joints.


When medication is not bringing the desired relief surgery can be done to relief damaged joints which will restore mobility and also bring relieve to pain. The joints commonly replaced are those of the hip and knee.

Managing osteoarthritis

To manage osteoarthritis the following practices should be observed:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight: you should maintain a healthy because excess weight worsens OA as it puts extra stress on the weight carry joints of the body.
  • Control blood sugar:  When the blood sugar is high as in the case of diabetes cartilage can become stiffer and break down. Diabetes can also cause inflammation further weakening the cartilage.
  • Exercise: Exercising like stretching, daily walks, raising and lowering of legs when standing or sitting can bring relief to the symptoms of OA. But do not engage in strenuous exercise which can more harm than good.
  • Relax: Make time to relax. Listen to music, meet friends, and engage in fun activities.
  • Embrace a healthy lifestyle: Eat healthy food. Quit smoking. Moderate the intake of alcohol. Get enough sleep every day. These are healthy lifestyles that can bring relief to symptoms of osteoarthritis.

By Ekene Arodiogbu

Ekene Arodiogbu is the CEO of Excedel World. He loves to listen to good music and watch movies in his spare time.

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