Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common “wear and tear” disease that occurs when the cartilage that serves as a cushion in the joints deteriorates.  More than 50% of adults over the age of 65 are affected by it.

Also known as degenerative joint disease, OA can affect any joint but is most common in knees, hands, hips, and spine. It is associated with pain, loss of function, and reduced endurance, ultimately leading to weight gain and associated complications. The underlying cause of this condition is typically chronic repetitive motion that results in inflammation and structural joint damage.

Predisposing factors include repetitive motion, infection, rheumatoid arthritis, muscular dystrophy, osteoporosis, hormone disorders, obesity, sickle cell disease, and bone disorders. OA is equally common in men and women before age 55 but increases in women thereafter. Higher rates are observed in the knees in women and in the hips in men.

Patients may have pain, stiffness, limited range of motion, loss of flexibility, swelling, weakness deformed joints, and damaged cartilage. As disease progresses, joint pain and discomfort that could be relieved with rest become persistent and can limit activity and reduce quality of life.

If you have an appointment to see Dr. Wallach about joint pain, he will focus on the strength of the associated muscles and joint structure as well as tenderness of the joint. Your ability to walk and your range of motion will be examined as well. Evaluation of self-care and depression is also part of the in-take process.

X-rays, MRI, CT, or bone scans are imaging techniques used to diagnose OA. Fluids removed from the affected joints may be analyzed, and arthroscopy, which involves insertion of a small scope into the joint, can be used to view the damage.

Pain alleviation via medications including acetaminophen, NSAIDs, narcotics, and injection of corticosteroids and rehabilitation will be recommended by Dr. Wallach if necessary. Weight loss (with support) could be advised. Rehabilitation will likely involve muscle strengthening and stretching around the affected joints. Patients who participate in regular exercise tend to experience greater improvement.