By: Red Hot Mamas

Published: September 27, 2006

What you need to know from the shoulder to the hip to the knee

It creeps up as silently as a thief in the night: many baby boomers, those born between the years of 1946 and1964, are used to decades of physical activity. Suddenly, you discover it’s very difficult to get up out of bed due to joint aches. Some will simply chalk up their joint pain and stiffness to getting older; others may be aware that they are suffering from the ravages of osteoarthritis, or OA.

Osteoarthritis is an insidious disease that affects the joints in the body. With osteoarthritis, the cartilage in the joints that covers the end of the bones begins to wear down causing bone to rub against bone. Often, people with this condition feel pain and stiffness upon waking in the morning, but they begin to feel better after they start moving around. If left untreated, OA can lead to disability.

In fact, osteoarthritis is one of the nation’s leading causes of disability, and it limits the daily activity of millions. In addition, its impact extends far beyond the sufferer to family members and caregivers.

Chances are good then, that you or someone you know is affected by arthritis. After all, according to the Arthritis Foundation, there are more than 100 forms of the disease, which affects over 40 million Americans, or one American in seven (and one family in three). Sadly, there are approximately 300,000 children in the United States included in that figure. Arthritis, it seems, is an equal opportunity disease.

Different types of OA can affect different joints. Commonly included among these are the knees, hips, spine and big toes. Osteoarthritis is particularly common in the knee, with OA of the hip being the next most common.

Women are afflicted by OA significantly more than men. Taken together, 10-20% of people over age 65 suffer from OA often experience major pain, which may lead to disability.

OA of the knee is typically found to affect both knees and most sufferers begin to experience problems around the age of 50. Being overweight or having nodal osteoarthritis of the knee, which often coincides with menopause, increases the risk.

Osteoarthritis Risk

Factors that increase the risk of osteoarthritis include:

OA usually starts in the late 40s and continues later into life.
The disease is more prevalent and severe in women, especially if one is past menopause. African American women have more knee OA than Caucasian women.
Extra weight puts more pressure in your joints, an important factor in not only causing OA but in worsening the symptoms after it develops.
Injury to the Joint
Exercise does not cause OA. However, repetitive activity may injure joints, like heavy lifting. Often people with physically demanding jobs may develop the condition and of course, let’s not forget those in the sports profession, like football players.
There is a common form that runs in families known as nodal osteoarthritis, which particularly affects the hands of middle-aged women.

Osteoarthritis Symptoms

Stiff and painful joints are the main symptoms. Pain is usually worse after exercising. There may be stiffness after resting. This particularly happens in the morning upon arising, and then gets better after you get the joints moving again.

Often you may hear creaking sounds when the joints are moved. Symptoms may vary from one individual to the other, and there may be periods of time when symptoms do not prevail. Some people may also be bothered by changes in the weather. There may be swelling to the joints and the range of motion may be reduced.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, visit your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider will provide you with information on treatments that may include: Weight management (maintaining an ideal weight is extremely important for your joints); Exercise (strengthening and aerobic); Physical Therapy; Non-prescription and Prescription Therapy; and Surgery.

Remember, OA is not just a condition that marks our age. We should have knowledge about this common condition and the variety of ways to permanently treat it.

Osteoarthritis vs. Osteoporosis

Even though osteoarthritis and osteoporosis sound very similar but they are actually quite different. Many people confuse the two terms but they are completely separate medical conditions. They develop differently and symptoms, diagnosis and treatments are completely different.

It is possible to have both osteoporosis and arthritis but studies have shown people with osteoarthritis are less likely to develop osteoporosis. It may be more likely for people treated for rheumatoid arthritis to develop osteoporosis because of the drugs used.

Osteoporosis and osteoarthritis can share some similar approaches to coping and treatment. For example, exercise strategies that integrate stretching, posture and range of motion are used for both conditions. Speak with your healthcare provider for specific exercise programs for your condition.

Visit The Menopause Minute for additional resources.