As we age we are more and more likely to feel aches, pains, creaks, and squeaks of our joints. Many accept this as part of the aging process, but this seemingly forgets the incredible burden of osteoarthritis (also referred to as wear and tear or degenerative arthritis). In fact, 1 in 10 Americans over the age of 60 years will develop the disease. Of these, a significant amount will be in constant pain and some might not find adequate therapy. So instead of accepting osteoarthritis as an inevitability, is there anything one can do to prevent it?
What is arthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a disease of joints that often occurs in people over the age of 60. It is common in the knees, shoulders hips and hands. For those with the disease in their hands, it can be incredibly irritating as it affects their activities of daily living like cooking and cleaning. The pain and lack of movement are often very frustrating.
By understanding what osteoarthritis is, we can get a better understanding of how to prevent it. When two bones meet at a joint the body uses a protective sheath known as cartilage to stop bone on bone rubbing known as “eburnation”. Over time (or with injury etc) the cartilage can become worn down and result in a bone on bone contact. This results in pain and a reduced range of movement in the affected joints.
What increases your risk of arthritis?
Prevention of arthritis starts with understanding what increases the risk of arthritis and then not doing that thing. Inevitably age plays a huge role but this is not reversible. Other risk factors include:
- Being over 50 significantly increases your risk.
- Being female. Whilst the disease is common in both sexes there seem to be more women affected than men.
- Obesity is strongly associated with knee and hip osteoarthritis. A famous study known as the Framingham study showed that the 20% of woman who is the heaviest have double the likelihood of developing knee osteoarthritis. However, there isn’t an association with osteoarthritis of the hands.
- Osteoarthritis is more common in the hands of manual workers. People who do jobs that involve constant fine movement have an increased risk (presumably because they experience more wear and tear).
Is there anything you can do to prevent it?
At the moment there isn’t much an individual can do, except for not work in manual jobs, that reduces your risk of osteoarthritis. Many of the factors identified above are not changeable. However, there are a number of new and exciting therapies to treat osteoarthritis. One of these is stem cell therapy, whereby individuals own stem cells are injected into the joint allowing the cartilage to regrow in a way that has not been previously possible. If you or somebody you know is suffering from pain in their hands that they think might be the beginning of degenerative arthritis, get in contact with a specialist clinic to talk about stem cell therapy today.