Osteoarthritis

According to the National Institutes of Health, osteoarthritis is the most common joint disorder in the U.S., with about 1 in 10 people over the age of 60 living with the condition. But chronic osteoarthritis pain doesn't have to be par for the course as you grow older. At Hoag Spine Institute, we employ a whole-patient approach to osteoarthritis, utilizing the skills of not only world-class physicians and physical therapists, but also innovative approaches like yoga, flexibility training, core-strengthening and more. The result: less stiffness, shorter recovery time, and a more complete path to get you back to doing what you love with less pain.

Need Osteoarthritis Treatment? Orange County Comes to Hoag for Next-Generation Care of the Joints and Spine.

Are you dealing with low back pain due to osteoarthritis in Orange County? Then you owe it to your health to seek out the program with a team of nationally-recognized experts, wielding the technology and techniques you need to reduce pain, address what’s causing your symptoms and get you back to doing what you love.

At the Hoag Spine Institute, we’re united every day in one goal: delivering the best and most patient-focused osteoarthritis care in Southern California. From comprehensive exercise programs to help patients lose weight and protect their joints to the latest joint replacement surgeries that can replace an entire joint and have you back up and going in weeks, not months, there’s just no place like Hoag.

Read on for what you need to know from the Hoag Spine Institute about osteoarthritis, including key terms, symptoms and ways to potentially reduce your risk. And, if you need osteoarthritis care in Orange County, Hoag is here to help. Contact us today at 949-764-1411 or through our online form.

What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis, also called OA, is a type of progressive degenerative joint disease that can cause pain, stiffness, swelling and reduced range of motion in joints all over the body. It is most often diagnosed in the spine, knees, hands and hips. “Progressive” means the condition usually gets worse over time.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. In those with osteoarthritis, the cartilage that normally cushions and protects the joints begins to wear down and deteriorate. A tough, flexible connective tissue found throughout the body, cartilage plays a crucial role in healthy joint function, serving as a kind of natural shock absorber, helping protect the joints and keep bones from rubbing painfully together.

Once the cartilage in a person’s joints begins to deteriorate due to osteoarthritis, the joint can no longer operate as smoothly as it should. That can lead to a variety of often-painful OA symptoms. The most common symptom of osteoarthritis is chronic pain and joint stiffness in affected joints, especially after a period of inactivity like sitting still for a while.

What Are the Different Types of Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is often divided into two main types: primary osteoarthritis and secondary osteoarthritis. Which type a person has depends on why the person developed the condition.

  • Primary osteoarthritis usually occurs because of joint damage due to the natural wear-and-tear of lifelong use and aging. It’s not well understood why some people develop primary osteoarthritis as they age while others don’t.
  • Secondary osteoarthritis is usually caused by a medical condition or injury that causes damage to the joint. Over time, that damage can make the cartilage in the affected joint more likely to deteriorate.

Certain other types of osteoarthritis are categorized by the joints they affect or their root cause, including:

  • Nodal osteoarthritis, a type of osteoarthritis that usually affects the joints at the ends of the fingers and toes.
  • Erosive osteoarthritis: Much more common in women, erosive osteoarthritis is an aggressive form of osteoarthritis that often impacts the hands. In addition to progressive joint damage, the condition can cause significant erosion and damage to nearby bones.
  • Hip osteoarthritis: Often occurring in those who are older, hip osteoarthritis and the hip joint pain it can produce can make it hard for those with the condition to stand or walk even short distances.
  • Osteoarthritis of the Spine, which affects the joints that help the spine stay strong and flexible.
  • Knee osteoarthritis: Because of how much wear-and-tear weight-bearing joints in the knees experience over a lifetime, knee osteoarthritis is a very common form of the condition.
  • Post-traumatic osteoarthritis, which is a form of the condition that develops after severe injury or trauma to a joint.

What Can Cause Osteoarthritis?

Primary osteoarthritis is usually the result of joint damage caused by the normal wear-and-tear of lifelong use and growing older.

Anyone, no matter what their level of health or physical activity, can experience primary osteoarthritis as they age. In many cases, however, primary osteoarthritis is often made worse by contributing factors like obesity or working a physically-demanding job. Why some people develop primary osteoarthritis while others don’t isn’t well understood.

Cases of secondary osteoarthritis usually result from joint injury due to a known cause. Issues that can cause or contribute to the joint damage that can eventually lead to secondary osteoarthritis include:

  • Vehicle accidents.
  • Accidental falls at home or work.
  • Sports injuries, even if they’re years old.
  • Infections that damage the joint or cartilage.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the lining of the joints, leading to progressive damage and joint pain over time.
  • Congenital joint abnormalities, meaning issues a person was born with.
  • Certain metabolic diseases, including conditions such as gout and ochronosis which can cause joint damage.

What are the Symptoms of Osteoarthritis?

The symptoms of osteoarthritis (OA) can vary from person to person, ranging from mild pain and stiffness in the joints to severe, disabling joint pain.

While the joint damage that’s characteristic of primary osteoarthritis usually develops slowly over a period of years, some patients can experience osteoarthritis symptoms that come on fast and get worse quickly.

Joints all over the body can be impacted by pain, stiffness and reduced range of motion due to osteoarthritis. In some cases, those with the condition may experience an issue called crepitus, in which joints such as the knees or hips make cracking, grinding or popping sounds.

Some of the joints that are more commonly affected by osteoarthritis include:

  • Lower back (also called the lumbar spine)
  • Neck
  • Knees
  • Hands and fingers
  • Hips

Once osteoarthritis has taken hold, it can cause progressive damage to all areas of an affected joint and associated tissues. Tissues that can potentially be damaged or experience pain due to osteoarthritis include:

  • Tendons and ligaments.
  • The synovium, which is the smooth, soft lining of a joint.
  • The bones, which can experience damage and erosion in severe cases.
  • The meniscus in the knee joint, which is the rubbery, C-shaped cartilage that serves as a cushion between the bones of the upper thigh and lower leg.
Osteoarthritis and Bone Spurs

In some cases, joint damage due to osteoarthritis can cause what’s known as a bone spur (also called an osteophyte). Bone spurs are small, bony growths that can occur at the ends of bones as the body tries to repair joint damage due to an issue like osteoarthritis.

Osteophytes can develop in any joint affected by osteoarthritis, including the knee, spine, hips or finger joints. While the name “spur” suggests a sharp point, most bone spurs are actually smooth and rounded.

Osteophytes don’t experience pain themselves, and may not cause any symptoms at all. In some cases, however, a bone spur can press on, rub or irritate nearby nerves and tissues, which can result in problems like reduced range of motion, joint pain and stiffness.

For example: spinal stenosis, a condition in which the spinal canal through the middle of the spine becomes abnormally narrowed, is sometimes a result of bone spurs developing in the vertebrae. Visit here to learn more about spinal stenosis from Hoag.

What are the Risk Factors for Osteoarthritis?

The primary risk factor for osteoarthritis is getting older. The joints in the knees, back, hands and other parts of the body experience wear-and-tear over a lifetime of use, which often results in joint damage and deterioration. Over time, that can cause osteoarthritis.

Other factors that can put you at greater risk of joint injury or damage that can lead to osteoarthritis include:

  • Genetics, as osteoarthritis has a tendency to run in families.
  • Being obese, as extra weight can put more stress on weight-bearing joints like the knees and lower spine, causing damage that can progress to osteoarthritis.
  • Being a woman, as women over 50 are more likely to develop osteoarthritis symptoms than older men.
  • Having a history of playing full-contact sports, including American football, wrestling and rugby or an injury as a result of playing those sports.
  • Having rheumatoid arthritis and other rheumatic diseases.
  • Having previously had a traumatic injury to a joint due to an accident or fall.
  • Overuse of a joint, which might be caused by exercising too vigorously or repetitive movements at work.
  • Having a medical history of osteoarthritis pain in another joint, which makes a person more likely to develop the condition in other parts of the body.
  • Having certain metabolic diseases, including gout, which can lead to the creation of tiny crystals inside the joint, leading to damage and joint pain.
Is There Any Way to Reduce My Risk of Osteoarthritis?

Because primary osteoarthritis can develop as a result of factors that are out of a person’s control, like normal aging and wear-and-tear on the joints, there’s no known way to definitely prevent a person from developing the condition.

However, there are certain steps you can take to potentially avoid the joint damage and deterioration that can lead to osteoarthritis pain. These steps may include:

  • Maintain a healthy weight: Carrying excess weight can put unneeded stress on your entire body, including weight-bearing joints like those in the spine, knees and hips. Eating a diet that’s low in fat, sugar and carbohydrates, along with an exercise program, is important in a healthy lifestyle, and can greatly assist you in losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight long-term.
  • Stay active: Regular exercise is about more than just weight loss. Exercising strengthens the muscles that support the joints and improves flexibility, which are key to avoiding the joint damage that can become osteoarthritis. An exercise program that stresses low-impact options like swimming, walking or cycling is best, and don’t forget a warm up and cool down period before and after you exercise.
  • Protect your joints: If you participate in sports, a job or hobbies that might lead to a traumatic injury, be sure to wear proper protective gear that prevents joint instability and injury, while avoiding severe, repetitive motions that put excess strain on your joints. If you’re often on your feet at work, taking measures like buying cushioning shoe inserts can help reduce strain on your knees and spine.
  • Listen to your body: Pay attention to the pain signals from your joints, especially while exercising, playing sports or performing physical labor. If you experience pain in a joint during certain movements, avoid the urge to “push through” the pain, which can result in joint damage that can put you at greater risk of osteoarthritis down the road. Instead, rest when needed, and use conservative, at-home treatments like heat and cold therapies, over-the-counter pain medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. If the pain doesn’t go away after a few days, see your doctor for a physical examination.
  • Consult your doctor: Regular checkups with your doctor can help identify your risk factors for osteoarthritis, detect any ongoing joint damage that could lead to OA pain and allow for early intervention through treatments like prescription anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy and occupational therapy, potentially helping patients avoid pain and disability later in life due to osteoarthritis. If your doctor suggests steps that can help protect joints or lessen the impact of a damaged joint, like wearing special shoe inserts or seeing a physical therapist, follow your physician’s instructions exactly.

Need an Osteoarthritis Specialist in Orange County? Hoag Has the Expertise You Need to Heal.

Every day at the Hoag Spine Institute, our team of specialists, orthopedic surgeons, occupational therapists and pain management experts is setting the gold standard for osteoarthritis treatment in Orange County.

From the moment you enter our doors for an initial physical exam, our program-wide focus is on delivering the best patient care in Southern California. To get there, we utilize the latest technologies like advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques and next-generation 3D ultrasound. Because getting the correct diagnosis the first time helps drive the personalized treatment plan you need to minimize pain and other symptoms and get you moving again.

We’re dedicated to less-invasive treatment options for joint diseases. But if more conservative options don’t fix or reduce your pain and restore function, the Hoag Spine Institute is Orange County’s source for advanced, total-joint replacement surgery, utilizing minimally-invasive techniques for less pain and shorter recovery time.

Do you need treatment for osteoarthritis pain and disability in Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Irvine, Tustin or other communities across Orange County? Then the help you need to relieve osteoarthritis symptoms and get back in the game is nearby, at Hoag. To learn more about Hoag Spine Institute, or to schedule a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation with a Hoag spine care specialist, please contact us today at 949-764-1411 or through our online form.

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