It is important for those who suspect they’re suffering the early symptoms of osteoarthritis to understand when they should seek medical help. Some people experience symptoms many years prior to the disease progressing. When it does begin to progress, the cartilage between the joints becomes worn and torn, which results in inflammation.
Those of us with osteoarthritis will feel pain and swelling of the joints. Over time, the wearing and tearing of the joint causes the loss of moisture that lubricates the joint. That’s when the joint hardens. Still all of this usually takes a long time to progress and early detection could make the difference in how you will ultimately feel and function with osteoarthritis.
Look for the following symptoms:
- Pain and tenderness
- Sharp pain with certain movements (e.g. knuckle or wrist pain when opening a jar).
- Joint stiffness
- Achy joint when at rest
- Loss of flexibility or reduction in your range of motion
- Abnormal sensations or noises coming from movements you make, like cracking or clicking
- You are stiff and tight upon waking, but movement loosens you up
In the early stages of osteoarthritis, you may only experience joint pain at specific times of the day. For instance, you may awaken with a stiff back or you may notice stiffness when you bend down to do your gardening. As the degeneration continues, the discomfort starts to felt for longer periods of the day. In later stages, the joints will still hurt when you’re at rest.
Options for Treating Osteoarthritis
- Over-the-counter pain relievers
- Braces to support the joint
- Physical Therapy
- Bone Realignment
- Bone Fusion
- Joint Replacement
- Arthroscopic surgery
Relieve Pain with Small Lifestyle Changes
For heavy people suffering from joint problems, weight loss could help relieve the stress our joints are under. Rest and don’t use achy joints for 12 to 24 hours. Apply an ice pack to the painful swollen area to reduce the fluid in the tissue and ease the pain. You can also alternate with heat when you are feeling stiff. This opens the blood vessels and increases the circulation. Apply both cold and hot packs for no more than 20 minutes.
Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers
Drugs like Tylenol (Acetominophen) will relieve pain, but taken too often they can cause liver damage. Because Tylenol doesn’t reduce inflammation, try nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen.
Taken in excess, these drugs also have the potential to cause side effects such as:
- Stomach problems
- Kidney damage
- Liver damage
- Cardiovascular disease
Regardless, being pain free helps us make informed decisions and hopefully seek medical care and advice. Used sparingly, these can help you relieve discomfort while you seek better long-term solutions (like physical therapy or surgery).
If you fear you have osteoarthritis, speak with the doctors at Orthopaedic Specialty Group to learn about your risks, options, and best chance for long-term joint health.