Creaks, cracks, and groans … these might be sounds you’d expect from an old house, but not from your bones! Yet as we grow older, those noises may come from our knees, hips, and other joints. Osteoarthritis (OA), the most common joint disorder among adults, causes that creakiness, along with pain, swelling, and stiffness in the joints.
Between the bones of our joints is cartilage, a spongy substance that provides “padding” so that bones do not contact one another. Over time, the cartilage may wear away or get compressed. This process is a natural side effect of aging, which is why OA is most prevalent among adults over age 65. Almost everyone over the age of 70 has at least minor symptoms of OA.
Other factors may increase your risk of developing OA. The condition tends to run in families, and being overweight can increase your chances of developing OA in the knees, hips, and ankles. Meanwhile, previous injury to a joint or repeated overuse can also increase a patient’s chances of developing OA.
Some medical conditions can also contribute to patients’ developing OA sooner rather than later:
- Bleeding disorders like hemophilia
- Medical conditions that block blood flow around the joint and cause avascular necrosis
- Gout, pseudogout, rheumatoid arthritis, and other form of arthritis
Your primary care physician can generally spot OA, although he may recommend that you visit an orthopedist to be sure. During your visit, the doctor will look for signs of OA:
- Crepitation (a cracking or grating sound during joint movement)
- Swelling around the joint
- Limited range of motion
- Tenderness when pressure is applied to the joint
He may ask when you experience joint pain, and whether rest relieves the pain. If the doctor suspects OA, he’ll prescribe an x-ray of the affected joint. If it shows loss of joint space, or if there’s visible wear on the bone or bone spurs, you may need treatment.
Osteoarthritis Treatment Options
Although there is no cure for OA, there are ways to control the condition. Surgery isn’t the only option; doctors reserve that for the most severe cases, where OA significantly decreases the patient’s ability to participate in daily activities. Before suggesting surgery, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter medication, physical therapy, and/or lifestyle modifications.
If your OA progresses to the point that these non-invasive treatments don’t help, it may be time to consider joint replacement. During this procedure, an orthopedic surgeon removes part or all of the joint and replaces it with a synthetic one.
For more information on osteoarthritis, joint health, or orthopedic care, please contact us at the Medical Center of Lewisville’s Human Motion Institute. Visit us online or call 972-420-1800.