How Joints Work
Joints allow for movement and shock absorption. Think of how your fingers bend when you hold a pen or a fork. The cartilage on the ends of the bones in your fingers allow for that movement in the joints to be smooth and pain free. And, when you jump off a curb, your knee joint absorbs the pressure from the weight of your body when you land on your feet.
How does this happen?
The ends of our bones are covered with a hard, but slippery material that cushions your bones and allows them to glide where they meet to form a joint. This slippery material is called cartilage.
What Happens to My Bones and Joints When I Have Osteoarthritis?
When the cartilage breaks down and wears away, usually due to injury or age, it exposes the bones of our joints to direct wear and tear from motion and force. Without the protective covering of cartilage, our bones now rub directly together causing pain, swelling, loss of joint movement, and possibly deformity.
As time goes on, friction and wear may cause the joint to change shape. Small deposits of bone, called bone spurs, may begin to grow on the edges of the joint.
With all the motion and force still occurring in the joint every time you try to use it, pieces of bone and cartilage can break off and float inside the joint space, causing more pain and damage.
This is what might be happening inside your joints if you have osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, and its occurrence increases with age. It is estimated that 27 million Americans age 25 and older have some form of osteoarthritis.
What Affects Will I Feel from Osteoarthritis?
First, you will probably notice your joints feel stiff or ache after you exercise or do physical work. Over time, you may notice the pain is becoming more frequent, and more pervasive. You will begin to notice pain and stiffness when you get out of bed in the morning, or after staying in one position for too long.
Although it can affect any joint, osteoarthritis usually develops in the joints of the fingers closest to the nail, in the thumbs, neck, lower back, knees, and hips. As the friction continues within the joint, the joint damage becomes greater, often causing significant pain and disability.
What Happens When Osteoarthritis is Left Untreated?
Although there are many treatments available to prevent and slow the joint damage caused by osteoarthritis, if left untreated, the joints may degenerate to the point where they cannot function due to pain and malformation. When this extreme state of degeneration occurs, many people may be helped by surgery to achieve one or more of the following:
· Removal of loose pieces of bone and cartilage from inside the joint space
· Repositioning of the bones
· Resurfacing of the bones, joint resurfacing.
Sometimes it becomes necessary for doctors to replace some or all of the affected joint with an artificial joint, or prosthesis. Joint replacement is major surgery, and can provide some pain relief to the patient, restoring function, allowing them to move more easily.
If you are feeling the pain, swelling and stiffness of osteoarthritis, call Advanced Bone & Joint at (636) 229-4222, or request an appointment online to see one of our orthopedic doctors. They will discuss a plan to help you preserve your joints with less pain and more movement, and explain the treatment options available to you. Maintaining functional joints is essential to moving through life, and retaining your independence. Our goal is to help you achieve that.