Is The Pain In Your Joints From Osteoarthritis?

May 9, 2018

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Arthritis is often thought of as a disease, but actually its a symptom. There are over 100 diseases that have arthritis as a common symptom. One of those diseases is osteoarthritis. Since May is Arthritis Awareness Month, let’s take a closer look at this degenerative disease.

To review from a previous post, osteoarthritis (OA), or degenerative joint disease (DJD), is the inflammation of weight bearing joints that causes the breakdown of the cartilage, bone thickening, and bone spurs within the joint. It is not a systemic disease, which means it could affect only a single joint in your body. For example, you may have a significant degree of osteoarthritis in one knee, but not as significant arthritis in the other. However, osteoarthritis can affect multiple joints.

There are many risk factors for the development of OA in a joint, but its mostly due to “wear and tear” from excessive stress on a joint over time. Primary OA is idiopathic in nature with no known cause of arthritis, and secondary OA is arthritis related to some other health condition such as trauma, congenital or developmental disease, an inflammatory disease, or obesity.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, approximately 30.8 million adults suffer from osteoarthritis. OA is the leading causing of disability in the United States, and the fifth leading cause of disability worldwide. It is estimated that OA affects 10 percent of the world’s population over 60 years old. Work loss due to osteoarthritis costs the US economy approximately $100 billion annually. In 2012, over 1 million joint replacements were performed in the US at a cost of $18.8 billion.

It’s clear that osteoarthritis is highly prevalent and has a significant impact
on individuals who have it, the economy, and healthcare costs.

To better understand if you or someone you know may be dealing with osteoarthritis, let’s look at some of the common things to look for.
  • Pain at weight bearing joints
  • Crepitus (cracking, creaking sound that can be heard and felt)
  • Joint stiffness
  • Decreased range of motion at the joint
  • Joint inflammation
  • Joint deformity over time
  • Limitations in ability to perform daily activities
The pain from OA is due to the destruction of the cartilage within the joints. Pain usually progresses from pain with activity, to pain during and after activity, and finally, pain at rest. Joint stiffness is especially evident when beginning to move after a period of not moving such as waking up in the morning. As cartilage loss and joint damage from OA progresses, this leads to decreased range of motion, deformities at the joint, and loss of functional abilities.

Common joints affected by OA include the knees, hips, ankles, hands, shoulders, and the vertebrae of the spine. The pain and inflammation from OA can also lead to a variety of secondary problems such as decreases in muscle strength and endurance, decreased aerobic endurance and capacity, and weight gain.

A diagnosis of OA is determined based on the individual’s signs, symptoms, and clinical history, along with x-ray imaging of the specific joint. Once diagnosed with OA, the main goal is to manage the pain and inflammation in order to maximize the individual’s functional ability and comfort level. In next week’s post, we will discuss the wide variety of treatment strategies that are used for OA, including joint replacement surgery.


1. Arthritis Foundation: “Arthritis By the Numbers: Book of Trusted Facts and Figures.

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