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Osteoarthritis: is it really just wear and tear?

Close up of the hip joint

What do you think when you hear osteoarthritis? Creaky…stiff…painful? We’ve all heard people say “I’ve been told it’s wear and tear of the joint – part of the aging process.”

But does it have to be? And, can it be prevented?

No and yes.

A mini glossary before we dive in:

Osteoarthritis: Disorder of the whole synovial organ. Not just the articular cartilage. More commonly affecting weight bearing joints i.e. hips and knees.

Synovial organ: Bone, articular cartilage, ligaments, muscles, tendons, joint capsule, synovial fluid– and more depending on the joint. Example: the knee.

Articular cartilage: The covering of the end of a bone that forms a joint. Damaged as a result of the osteoarthritic disease process.

Symptoms of osteoarthritis

For those experiencing osteoarthritis it boils down to reports of:

  • pain
  • decreased range of movement and function
  • swelling
  • crackling or grinding noises in the joint
  • tenderness to touch

Along with this there will be changes in how someone moves and it’s believed that this is where a lot of the pain stems from – changes in biomechanics. Importantly, we can help with that!

Prevention

It all comes back to a healthy lifestyle. I’ll have more to say about this in a future blog post. For now I’ll say strengthening of the quadriceps muscles, the big thigh muscles at the front of the leg, and maintaining appropriate body weight, decreases the risk of osteoarthritis by a whopping 30%.

More on this soon.