Affecting roughly 32.5 million Americans every year, osteoarthritis, also known as OA or degenerative joint disease, is an incredibly common degenerative disease. At RightPath Pain and Spine Centers in Davenport, FL, we can help you start safe, effective treatment before your quality of life is diminished even more.
The Most Common Osteoarthritis Symptoms
By far, the most common osteoarthritis symptom is pain. Depending on the joints affected, pain may occur in one or both hips, the spine, the knees, the hands, or other joints. However, it’s critical that you come in for a diagnosis so you can get the safest, most effective treatment.
There are several types of arthritis, and if you have shoulder or finger pain, you are more likely to suffer from rheumatoid arthritis than OA.
Aches that Change in Severity With Changes in Barometric Pressure
Another sign you may have osteoarthritis is achy joints that worsen with drops in barometric pressure. If you’ve ever awoken in the middle of the night knowing that a storm was coming because your knee ached, you probably have OA.
Another incredibly common sign that you suffer from degenerative joint disease is feeling a grating sensation whenever the diseased joint is used. For example, if you have OA of the hip, you may feel like the ball of your hip is rubbing against the socket when you walk, sit, or stand. You may also hear popping or crackling when you use the diseased joint.
Bone spurs are a good indication that OA has developed. Bone spurs are extra bone growths that form around the diseased joint. They most commonly develop on the hands and ankles but can develop around any joint affected by the degenerative disease.
Bone spurs may tingle, feel tender, numb or painful, irritate, and inflame surrounding tissues. Or, they may cause no symptoms other than growing on top of your osteoarthritic joints.
Even if your OA doesn’t cause you pain, it may cause chronic discomfort. Diseased joints often cause the surrounding soft tissues to become inflamed.
In response to the inflammation, the soft tissues surrounding your diseased joints may swell to the point that they are pushing uncomfortably against your skin. This can be treated by anti-inflammatory herbs and spices, like garcinia Cambogia or cayenne pepper.
Severely Impaired Range of Motion
Another sign you may suffer from OA is a significant reduction in your range of motion. As the disease degenerates your joints, you may notice that even regular stretching is not enough to slow the disease’s progression.
If you have undiagnosed OA and you can’t do things that you could do with ease in the past, a combination of physical therapy and regenerative therapy, like stem cell therapy, may be required to restore your range of motion.
Another sign of OA is extreme tenderness. Most people with the condition feel tenderness when light pressure is applied to the joint. However, you may also notice tenderness when light pressure is applied near the affected joint. Additionally, you may notice that the soft tissues around the joint are even more tender and sensitive shortly after using the joint.
A very common sign of OA, but a fairly universal sign of any type of arthritis, is joint stiffness. The stiffness of arthritic joints is usually the worst immediately upon waking up in the morning and gets better as you get out of bed and start your day. However, it can also be triggered by long periods of inactivity.
If your joints become unbearably stiff after sitting at your desk for four hours at work, make a point to get up and walk around every hour. You don’t have to walk far, and you don’t have to waste time. Do something productive, like getting yourself a glass of tea or asking your supervisor a question in person rather than instant messaging her.
Make No Excuses
If there is truly no reason for you to leave your desk, do calisthenics at your desk. If you feel self-conscious about doing 10 squats or 10 tricep dips, talk to the people on your floor about doing calisthenics every hour for their heart and lung health. With so many viral diseases that affect the heart and lungs in the world, regular exercise is critical for everyone’s health.
The Most Common OA Risk Factors
By far, the most common preventable risk factor of OA is obesity. When you carry enough excess body weight to be diagnosed with obesity, you increase your risk of OA of the knee fourfold. If you are simultaneously diagnosed with knee OA and obesity, enlist professional weight loss help right away.
You should work with a licensed nutritionist to help you reduce your caloric intake without missing out on any of the nutrients that your body needs to be healthy. Unless you feel confident in your understanding of kinesiology, you should also hire a certified personal trainer to help you lose weight safely and quickly without increasing your risk of joint injury.
Age and Sex
Although you can’t change your age or sex, it’s important to be aware of all risk factors of a medical condition. If you are in a high-risk category, you can take extra precautions to mitigate your risk of developing OA by ensuring you do not fall into preventable high-risk categories.
Two very significant risk factors of OA are being over 55 years of age and being a female. If you are over 55 years of age, female and overweight or obese, get down to a healthy weight for your height. Every 10 pounds of excess weight you carry puts between 15 and 50 pounds of excess pressure on your knees when you walk, jog, run, and jump. Getting down to and maintaining a healthy weight will drastically improve your life.
Another very significant risk factor of OA is a history of joint injuries. Joint injuries most commonly occur due to falling and spraining or straining a joint. Other common causes of joint injuries include motor vehicle accidents and sustained repetitive overuse.
For example, if you work for a dispatch center and type for 10 to 12 hours per night, you may end up with degenerative joint disease affecting your wrists. Similarly, you may develop a degenerative joint disease of the hip or knee if you work in a warehouse and walk 13 miles or more daily. To mitigate your risk of developing OA without changing your profession, mitigate your risk of overuse injury by stretching regularly and eating healthy foods.
A healthy diet goes a long way to mitigating the risk of degenerative joint disease. Similarly, an unhealthy diet can trigger degenerative joint disease in individuals who are not in any other high-risk categories. A poor diet can lead to such metabolic diseases as type II diabetes and hemochromatosis.
Type II diabetes is a metabolic disease that occurs when your pancreas can’t produce enough insulin to regulate the glucose in your bloodstream or your body becomes resistant to insulin. It can be caused by a traumatic injury to the pancreas, but it usually is caused by excess weight and inactivity. Both type II diabetes and hemochromatosis can be treated by minimizing the consumption of alcohol and eating foods that are higher in lean protein and fiber.
Degenerative Joint Disease Diagnosis
Remember, there are several types of arthritis and several symptoms that can indicate the possible presence of a type of arthritis but not which type of arthritis is present in your body. To diagnose the type of arthritis you have and develop the most effective treatment plan for your condition, there are several steps that must be taken.
The first step in diagnosing degenerative joint disease is a physical examination. During this examination, the flexibility of your affected joint will be assessed. Then, the skin around the affected joint will be examined for redness or swelling. Finally, the soft tissue around the affected joint will be tested for tenderness.
If the preliminary physical indicates that you may suffer from a type of arthritis, the testing will continue with diagnostic images. X-rays can effectively diagnose simple cases of degenerative joint disease, but MRIs are required for more complex cases.
X-rays most readily identify bone spurs that grow around or on top of a joint affected by degenerative joint disease. However, X-ray images can also identify cartilage loss. Although cartilage is not shown directly on an X-ray image, cartilage loss can be identified easily if you’ve had X-rays of the affected joint in the past. To a joint specialist, it is easy to see that the space between the bones in your joint is narrowing over time.
An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) machine is a machine that uses radio waves and a powerful magnetic field to produce clear images of both bone and soft tissues. One such soft tissue seen clearly on images produced by an MRI machine is cartilage. Although an X-ray is usually all that is needed to diagnose degenerative joint disease, an MRI machine can provide valuable insight into which treatment methods are the most appropriate.
If there is any doubt regarding your diagnosis after a physical examination and imaging tests, lab tests may be ordered to confirm your diagnosis. Blood tests and joint fluid analysis are very useful for ruling out other potential causes of pain and inflammation.
Even though there is no blood test that can accurately diagnose degenerative joint disease, blood tests can diagnose other causes of joint pain, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Remember, rheumatoid arthritis is treated differently than degenerative joint disease, so an accurate diagnosis is crucial for the best prognosis.
Joint Fluid Analysis
In rare cases, fluid from your affected joint must be drawn through a cannula. The drawn fluid will be tested for markers indicating inflammation and can determine if your pain is caused by a medical condition other than degenerative joint diseases, such as gout or an infection.
Schedule an Appointment to Diagnose Your Pain Today
If you live with pain that seems to worsen as barometric pressure drops, you may suffer from osteoarthritis. To diagnose and treat the cause of your chronic pain, call us at RightPath Pain and Spine Centers in Davenport, FL today to schedule an appointment with Dr. Tom M. Porter, MD.
Dr. Porter is highly trained and experienced and specializes in treating conditions that cause chronic spine or limb pain. If you’re sick and tired of living in agony, but not ready to commit to major surgery, he can help you restore your quality of life through injection therapy, physical therapy, or a combination of non-invasive therapies that will work for you.