Arthritis is inflammation of one or more of your joints. The main symptoms of arthritis are joint pain and stiffness, which typically worsen with age. The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis in the U.S. Approximately 27 million adults have reported being diagnosed with OA by their doctor. While the cause of OA is unknown, it occurs when cartilage in joints breaks down over time. Often called “wear and tear” arthritis, OA is most commonly found in the knees, hips, hands, or spine, though it can occur in any joint.
Quick facts about OA
- One in 2 people in the U.S. will experience some form of OA in their lifetime.
- OA is much more common in women than men.
- OA accounts for more than 50% of arthritis cases in the U.S. (nearly 27 million of the 46 million adults who have reported doctor-diagnosed arthritis).
Symptoms of OA
The most noticeable symptom of OA is a feeling of pain in or around the joint. Other symptoms include:
- Tenderness and stiffness in the joint
- Loss of flexibility or range of motion
- Grating sensation or sound in the joint, also known as crepitus
- You might notice some of these feelings or sounds even when performing everyday activities like climbing stairs, getting dressed, or going shopping.
Osteoarthritis is usually caused by normal wear and tear, while rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder. Other types of arthritis can be caused by uric acid crystals, infections or even an underlying disease, such as psoriasis or lupus. Treatments vary depending on the type of arthritis. The main goals of arthritis treatments are to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.
Osteoarthritis gradually worsens with time, and no cure exists. But osteoarthritis treatments can slow the progression of the disease, relieve pain and improve joint function.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
Rheumatoid Arthritis (roo-muh-toid ahr-thrahy-tis) (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease in which the body mistakenly attacks healthy joints, causing pain, swelling and stiffness. Over time, RA can worsen, making even simple everyday tasks difficult.
In some patients, RA can begin to cause permanent joint damage within the first 12 to 24 months. Proper diagnosis and treatment are essential to help prevent progression of joint damage. Talk to your rheumatologist about treatment options that may help prevent further joint damage from RA.
Cervical spondylosis is a general term for age-related wear and tear affecting the spinal disks and small joints in your neck. As the disks dehydrate and shrink, bone spurs and other signs of osteoarthritis develop. Cervical spondylosis is very common and worsens with age. There also appears to be a genetic component involved because some families will have more of these changes over time, while other families will develop less. More than 90 percent of people older than age 65 have evidence of cervical spondylosis and osteoarthritis that can be seen on neck X-rays. Most of these people experience no symptoms from these problems. When symptoms do occur, nonsurgical treatments such as physical therapy often are effective.
Bone spurs are bony projections that develop along the edges of bones. Also called osteophytes, bone spurs often form where bones meet each other – in your joints. Bone spurs can also form on the bones of your spine. The main cause of bone spurs is the wear-and-tear damage associated with osteoarthritis. Most bone spurs cause no symptoms and may go undetected for years. Bone spurs may not require treatment. Decisions about treatment depend on where spurs are located and how they affect your health.
Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the open spaces within your spine, which can put pressure on your spinal cord and the nerve roots that travel through the spine. Spinal stenosis occurs most often in the neck and lower back. While some people have no signs or symptoms, spinal stenosis can cause pain, numbness, muscle weakness, and problems with bladder or bowel function.
Spinal stenosis is most commonly caused by wear-and-tear changes in the spine related to aging. Physical therapy can aid in reducing pain, increasing spinal mobility and supportive strength. In severe cases of spinal stenosis, doctors may recommend surgery to create additional space for the spinal cord or nerves.
Bone Spurs on Spine
As your spine ages, it’s more likely to experience bone spurs or herniated disks. These problems can reduce the amount of space available for your spinal cord and the nerves that branch off it.
Osteoporosis causes bones to become weak and brittle – so brittle that a fall or even mild stresses like bending over or coughing can cause a fracture. Osteoporosis-related fractures most commonly occur in the hip, wrist or spine. Bone is living tissue, which is constantly being absorbed and replaced. Osteoporosis occurs when the creation of new bone doesn’t keep up with the removal of old bone.
Osteoporosis affects men and women of all races. But white and Asian women – especially those who are past menopause – are at the highest risk. Medications, healthy diet and physical therapist directed and guided weight-bearing exercise can help prevent bone loss or strengthen already weak bones.