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Joint Discovery: Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis may be an ancient issue (scientists have unearthed evidence of the condition in the Neanderthal’s backbone and Egyptian Queen Nefertari’s mummified knees), but nearly half of today’s senior population still suffers from this common disease

SOURCE: Dr. Brett Young, orthopaedic surgeon

CONDITION: 

“This degenerative condition is analogous to the tread on your tires wearing thin.” 

The most common form of arthritis; occurs when articular cartilage (smooth, white tissue lining joints) gradually wears away, resulting in painful inflammation; may lead to bone spurs, erosion of the bone and/or thickened joint tissues that cause swelling

Dr. Brett Young

RISK & PREVALENCE:

“Osteoarthritis used to be attributed to simple wear and tear, but we’re learning that a much more complex biological process leads to cartilage breakdown.” 

Risk factors include genetics, age, metabolic syndrome (hypertension, obesity, diabetes, hyperlipidemia), joint trauma and overuse; affects more than 32.5 million American adults; 88% of sufferers are 45 or older; most common cause of disability in the U.S.

TREATMENT: 

“The evolving use of biologics—harnessing the body’s own healing potential—has received a lot of recent interest. This includes diet changes to eliminate inflammatory foods, physical therapy to improve joint health and platelet-rich plasma injections directly to the joint to speed healing.” 

Diagnosed using patient medical history, physical exam and x-rays; treatment focuses on pain reduction by decreasing inflammation with modified activity (i.e., rest, fewer physical demands), ice and/or anti-inflammatory medications

SURGERY:

“In the last 10 years, hip and knee replacement surgery has improved from a three-day hospital stay plus inpatient rehab to a same-day procedure for many patients.” 

Used in cases of persistent pain; procedure determined by affected joint and condition severity; options include shaving down bone spurs, excising small arthritic bones, fusing together joint bones and joint replacement

MAINTENANCE & PREVENTION:

“Exercise,  weight loss and a healthy diet can all improve joint pain from arthritis.”

Modify risk factors to decrease the risk of osteoarthritis; maintain a healthy weight; engage in regular physical activity to keep physically fit and flexible; physical therapy can prevent recurring inflammation by correcting stiffness, weakness and/or mechanical issues

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