How It Works: Osteoarthritis
By Jarrod Beachum, PA-C
Last week I wrote about Vitamin D and how it affects the bones in the body. This week, I wanted to highlight another more common bone condition: osteoarthritis (OA). This is one of the most common conditions we see at 45 Urgent Care, indicating that it is a problem that is highly prevalent in our community.
OA is the most common form of arthritis. It is defined by the wearing down of the protective cartilage at the ends of the bones, causing the underlying bone to become exposed and damaged. However, it doesn’t affect just the ends of the bone, as the whole joint is changed over time by extra bony growth, damage to surrounding tissues, and chronic inflammation of the joint lining. No exact cause for OA to happen has been found yet, but there are several factors associated with a higher risk of OA, including older age, female sex, obesity, joint injuries, repetitive joint stress, genetics, and certain metabolic diseases, including diabetes and hemochromatosis. OA changes can cause pain, swelling, loss of function, decreased range of motion, joint stiffness, and deformity of joints.
OA is diagnosed generally by physical exam, patient history, and radiographs of the joints. CT and MRI can aid in further diagnostics if needed. There is no lab test for OA specifically, but labs may be drawn to rule out other similar conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout, or infection. Common findings on radiographs include joint space narrowing (the cartilage is going away), extra bony growths (osteophytes), change in joint angles, etc.
Unfortunately, OA is progressive. There is no cure for OA, but it can be treated, often with good long-lasting results. We typically will use some type of NSAID or Tylenol as a primary pain-relieving medication, though they work in different ways. Topical gels or creams with steroids, NSAIDs, or other medications may help just as well in some cases. In cases of OA of the knee, I will use a combination of injections (steroid, viscosupplementation, PRP/stem cell), aqua therapy, braces, Hako med, or decompression to help treat your pain and slow down the progress of the disease. Lifestyle changes are very important in the treatment of OA, and those include proper diet and exercise, weight loss, reducing inflammation and stress, work modification, and more. Like I said earlier, OA is progressive, and everyone will have different experiences with it. Our job is to help identify potential risk factors, properly diagnose the condition, and give you adequate treatments that will help reduce your pain and slow down the progression of the disease.
If you would like to speak to us at 45 Urgent Care about any joint pain you may be experiencing, please stop by and we will be glad to help you. You don’t have to live with the pain. We have many different treatment options for you and will gladly go the extra mile to get you the relief you deserve. Take care!