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Dora Mamodesene, MD
Osteoarthritis Stay Active and Independent
Greenway Family Health Center

Osteoarthritis Stay Active and Independent

What is arthritis?

Arthritis means inflammation of the joints. It causes pain and usually also limits movement of the joints that are affected. There are many kinds of arthritis, with osteoarthritis being the most common.

What causes osteoarthritis?

The exact cause isnt known. A person may be at increased risk of osteoarthritis because it runs in the family. Osteoarthritis seems to be related to the wear and tear put on joints over the years in most people. But wear and tear alone doesnt cause osteoarthritis.

What happens when a joint is affected?

Normally, a smooth layer of cartilage acts as a pad between the bones of a joint. Cartilage helps the joint move easily and comfortably. In some people, the cartilage thins as the joints are used. This is the start of osteoarthritis. Over time, the cartilage wears away and the bones may rub against one another.
Bones may even start to grow too thick on the ends where they meet to make a joint, and bits of cartilage and bone may loosen and get in the way of movement. This can cause pain, joint swelling and stiffness.

Who gets osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is more common in older people because they have been using their joints longer. Using the joints to do the same task over and over or simply using them over time can make osteoarthritis worse.

Is there a treatment?

No cure for osteoarthritis has been found. But the right plan, created with your doctor can help you stay active, protect your joints from damage, limit injury and control pain.

Will my arthritis get worse?

Osteoarthritis does tend to get worse over time. But you can do many things to help yourself.
Its important to stay as active as possible. When joints hurt, people tend not to use them and the muscles get weak. This can cause contractures (stiff muscles), and it can make it harder to get around. This causes more pain and the cycle begins again. Ask your doctor to discuss pain control with you so that you can stay active and avoid this problem.

Will medicine help?

Non-prescription medicine that reduces inflammation, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, ketoprofen or naproxen, or pain-relieverssuch as acetaminophen can help you feel better. Your doctor can also prescribe pain medicine for you or decide if you are a candidate for one of the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) used to treat certain types of arthritis.
Medicine should be used wisely. You only need the amount that makes you feel good enough to keep moving. Using too much medicine may increase the risk of side effects.

Will special exercises really help?

Yes. Exercise keeps your muscles strong and helps you stay flexible. Exercises that dont strain your joints are best. To avoid pain and injury, choose exercises that can be done in small amounts with rest time in between.

Should I use heat to ease pain?

Using heat may reduce your pain and stiffness. Heat can be applied through warm baths, hot towels, hot water bottles or heating pads. Ice packs can also be tried, as can alternating heat with ice packs.

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