Osteoarthritis: Understanding the Causes, Symptoms, and Prevention

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If you’re one of the over 30 million adults experiencing the aches, pains, and stiffness of osteoarthritis (OA), you’re not alone. This common joint disease affects 1 in every 2 people over the age of 65. However, the good news is that understanding the causes of osteoarthritis, recognizing symptoms early, and utilizing prevention strategies can help halt progression and maintain an active, high-quality lifestyle.

What Exactly Causes Osteoarthritis?

OA occurs when smooth, slippery cartilage that cushions joints breaks down over time, resulting in painful bone-on-bone friction. But what causes the cartilage breakdown in the first place? Major contributing factors include:

Age: OA risk rises substantially after age 50 as joints endure decades of wear-and-tear. However, youth and middle age OA is also on the rise due to sports injuries and obesity.

Obesity: Excess pounds place added force on weight-bearing joints like knees and hips. Adipose fat tissue also secretes inflammatory chemicals that break down cartilage.

Injury: Any injury that damages structures like cartilage, ligaments, or bones increases vulnerability. Even minor injuries add up over time.

Misalignment: Improperly formed joints that don’t fit together well create imbalance and instability, increasing OA risk. 

Genetics: People with a family history of OA have higher risk as they may inherit joint shape issues.

Overuse: Years of repetitive motions through sports, work, or daily activities slowly chip away at cartilage.

The more you understand the causes that contribute to developing osteoarthritis, the better prepared you are to actively focus on prevention.

Paying Attention to Early Osteoarthritis Symptoms

Joint pain and stiffness are classic osteoarthritis symptoms. Be alert for:

  • Aching, soreness, or tenderness inside the joint or in surrounding tissues.
  • Stiff, tight joints after getting out of bed or sitting for long periods. 
  • Swelling around joints from fluid accumulation.
  • Grating, crunching or crackling sounds (called crepitus) when moving joints.
  • Loss of flexibility, range of motion and strength in affected joints.  
  • Joint deformity or shape changes over time.

While OA can strike any joint, it most commonly affects load-bearing joints like knees, hips and spine as well as hands and base of the big toe. Paying attention to subtle early symptoms allows for earlier intervention to limit progression.

Can Osteoarthritis Be Prevented?

Some OA risks like age and genetics can’t be changed. However, adopting healthy lifestyle strategies can lower your odds of developing OA or halt progression in early stages.

  • Maintain a Healthy Weight – Shedding excess pounds reduces stress on joints. Losing just 10-15 lbs makes a big impact!
  • Regular Moderate Exercise – Strengthen muscles around joints and preserve mobility without overtaxing joints.
  • Healthy Diet – Nutrient-dense anti-inflammatory foods help joints. Focus on antioxidant-rich fruits, veggies, fish, nuts.
  • Joint Protection – Use proper form, supportive equipment, and safe technique during sports and occupations requiring repetitive motions.
  • Listen to Your Body – Avoid overexerting sore joints. Balance activity that maintains joint mobility with rest during flares.
  • Seek Early Treatment for Injuries – Prompt, appropriate care following strains, sprains, fractures prevents complications.

Expert Orthopaedic Care for Osteoarthritis Relief

If you’re experiencing osteoarthritis symptoms, see renowned orthopaedic specialist Dr. Herrick Siegel for comprehensive treatment. Offering 20+ years of trusted expertise to Birmingham, AL area patients, Dr. Siegel skillfully blends leading-edge joint preservation techniques, minimally invasive procedures, and total joint replacement when needed. He has demonstrated to be an authority on innovative treatments for maintaining and restoring joint health.

Skillful Hands, Caring Heart

Patients rave about Dr. Siegel’s consummate surgical skill, compassionate bedside manner, active listening, and clear explanations. He partners with you to explore all nonsurgical options first and only proceeds to joint replacement surgery when truly needed to relieve pain and restore function.

If you’re ready to get relief from osteoarthritis joint pain and get back to living life fully, call 205-930-8339 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Herrick Siegel. The health of your joints rests in the most capable hands with this trusted orthopaedic specialist.