Understanding Osteoarthritis

The most common cause of chronic joint pain is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis affects over 25 million people in the U.S. It involves the entire joint, including any nearby muscles, underlying bone, joint lining, ligaments, and the joint cover. People with osteoarthritis often suffer from joint pain and reduced range of motion.

Who Gets Osteoarthritis?

Older people are often most affected by osteoarthritis. Younger people sometimes get osteoarthritis primarily from joint injuries.

What are Common Causes of Osteoarthritis?

Some risk factors that can cause osteoarthritis may include:

  • Being older
  • Being overweight
  • A joint injury
  • Joints that aren’t properly formed
  • A genetic defect in joint cartilage
  • Stresses on the joints from certain jobs and playing sports
  • Overuse and injury
  • Muscle weakness, especially in the thigh muscles

What are the Warning Signs of Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis symptoms usually develop gradually. Osteoarthritis can target any joint but occurs most often in the knees, hips, hands, and spine. Warning signs of osteoarthritis include:

  • Stiffness in a joint after sitting for a long time or getting out of bed
  • Swelling or tenderness in one or more joints
  • A crunching sound or feeling or the sound of bone rubbing on bone
  • Pain that is worse after activity or at the end of the day

What’s the Goal of Physical Therapy for Osteoarthritis?

The goal of physical therapy is to help the patient with osteoarthritis return to the point where they are able to perform normal, everyday activities without pain or difficulty. Your physical therapy can do this by:

  • Increasing the range of motion of a joint is the primary focus of physical therapy to maintain the ability to perform daily activities
  • Building the strength in the involved muscles surrounding the joint to better stabilized any weakened joints
  • Providing exercises designed to preserve strength and use of your joints
  • Teaching you how to use walking aids such as crutches, a cane or walker
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