Osteoarthrosis, osteoarthritis and degenerative joint disease can be used interchangeably as terms for a disorder that causes cartilage degeneration within joints, which cause joint pain and damage. It is a common rheumatologic disorder that has been estimated to affect 70 to 90 percent of individuals older than 75 years. The cause of osteoarthrosis is unknown, but it is highly related to aging. Other diseases, injuries, repetitive occupational movements, weight gain, impact sports and genetic inheritance can increase your risk of developing osteoarthrosis.
Bone Cartilage Defined
Cartilage is a tough, fibrous connective tissue found between the bones in your body. These specialized tissues absorb mechanical forces created during movement. Since cartilage has no blood supply, it has a limited ability to repair itself. Cartilage cells, or chondrocytes, absorb nutrients slowly by diffusion and the cells cannot make new cartilage fast enough to replace damaged cartilage. Occasionally, damaged cartilage is replaced with a fibrous scar. Osteoarthrosis often affects cartilage in joints exposed to high physical stress.
A combination of mechanical, cellular and biochemical processes causes the thin layer of protective cartilage within your joints to break down and wear away. It may occur in only one of your joints or several. During joint movement, such unprotected bone will rub together and cause pain with possible inflammation. Symptoms of joint swelling, cracking, tenderness or limited range of motion may ensue. Joint pain and stiffness commonly occur after periods of inactivity or heavy exercise. Loss of joint mobility and function may eventually become a problem, requiring osteoarthritis treatment is recommended.
For a physician to diagnosis osteoarthrosis he will likely complete a physical exam, record your medical history and possibly order X-rays, or radiographs. Radiographs of affected joints will show decreased joint spaces due to cartilage wear down. In advanced cases the bones may become flattened or irregular shaped due to bone-on-bone rubbing in areas of reduced cartilage. The absence of radiographic change does not mean osteoarthrosis is not present; it means that typical joint changes have not progressed far enough for radiographic detection. Occasionally, secondary joint changes may be ruled out by testing the joint fluid.
The goal of osteoarthrosis and osteoarthritis treatment is to improve function and reduce pain. Each treatment plan should be tailored by a physician to your needs. Medications such as acetaminophen, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, narcotics or topical products may be prescribed as treatment for osteoarthrosis. Also, corticosteroids or hyaluronic acid joint injections may be used to decrease inflammatory pain and increase joint lubrication, respectively.
Physical therapy is nondrug pain relief often used to treat osteoarthrosis. A variety of exercise techniques will help improve muscle strength and balance to prevent osteoarthrosis pain and degeneration. Heat and cold therapy or massage therapy can help reduce joint pain. A physical or occupational therapist can help you adapt to everyday motions by reducing stress to painful joints. Braces, walking canes or shoe inserts may be able to stabilize and realign joint movement to reduce joint inflammation.
If you have severe osteoarthrosis, surgery may be needed to replace or repair damaged joints. Arthroscopic surgery may be used to trim and remove damaged cartilage. An osteotomy, or bone removal, is used to cut and realign bone to prevent further cartilage damage. Osteoarthrosis in the spine may require surgical fusion of vertebra and total or partial joint replacement may be needed for completely damaged joints.
A popular alternative medicine used to relieve symptoms of osteoarthrosis is acupuncture. Fine needles are inserted by a licensed acupuncture therapist at specific points on your body. It has been proven that acupuncture helps relieve pain and improve function in knee osteoarthrosis. Also, lifestyle changes can help you manage osteoarthrosis. Eating healthy to maintain a healthy weight, getting enough rest and regular exercise can help you maintain joint movement.