The ABCs of Osteoarthritis
Also called degenerative joint disease, OA is one of the most common chronic diseases among U.S. adults. It affects about 30 million people and is characterized by pain and stiffness in the hands, knees, hips, and other areas.
In people age 50 or older, OA is usually a natural result of normal wear and tear on your joints. In healthy joints, cartilage and synovial fluid allow the ends of your bones to glide smoothly over each other during movement. Over time, the layer of cartilage can wear down or break away and synovial fluid becomes thinner, causing the pain and stiffness, limited range of motion, and creaking
sounds associated with OA. In younger people, OA is often the result of joint injury or overuse.
Treatment of OA
Most doctors recommend a combination of self-management and medication to treat OA. In the most severe cases, surgery may be recommended.
Heat and cold. Applying mild heat to sore areas increases blood flow to your joints. Cold packs (bags of ice or frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel) help by numbing the painful area.
Physical activity. It may seem counterintuitive, but regular, gentle exercise, including light weight training, yoga, and tai chi can help strengthen nearby muscles and tendons and increase range of motion.
Weight loss can help reduce the stress on weight-bearing joints such as knees and hips.
Medication. Over the counter drugs, such as non-steroidal-anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and acetaminophen, block the production of pain causing chemicals. Be aware that both can cause serious side effects and are not intended for longterm use. If OTCs aren’t effective, ask your Physician about prescription alternatives.
Acupuncture. Some studies have shown acupuncture to be effective in treating OA as well as back and neck pain, chronic headaches,
and shoulder pain.
Surgery. If you’ve explored all other options and still can’t find relief, your Primary Care Physician may refer you to an Orthopedic Surgeon. An Orthopedist will determine whether you’re a candidate for surgery, and which surgical option might work best for you, based on your disease progression, age, activity level, overall health, ability to take time off work, and other factors.
By working with your Physician to manage your OA, it’s fully possible to return to the outdoor activities you love!
Dr. Aeron Wickes is a Family Physician in Graybill Medical Group’s Sabre Springs Office. He treats patients ages 18 and above and welcomes new patients.
Graybill Medical Group – Sabre Springs Office
12650 Sabre Springs Parkway, Suite 204 | San Diego, CA 92128
8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday & Thursday
8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Wednesday & Friday