Arthritis is an inflammation occurring in the joints, the movable connectors between bones. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis and occurs when the cartilage between the bones breaks down. Another name for osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease, as the main cause of the wear and tear on the joints is age. Stiffness in the affected joint, especially upon waking or moving after a long period of inactivity, is the primary symptom of this chronic condition.
Osteoarthritis can occur in any joint in the body, though the most commonly affected are the wrist, fingers, spine, hips, and knees. Age is a major contributor to osteoarthritis in the larger joints, such as the hip or spine, as cartilage wears down gradually over time. The smaller joints will typically be affected more by overuse.
Treatment, either medicinal, therapeutic, or surgical, depends mostly on which joint is affected as well as severity. Your doctor may prescribe acetaminophen—branded Tylenol, among others—or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Duloxetine, branded Cymbalta, may also be prescribed for chronic pain.
Sometimes additional physical activity or weight management can help to alleviate symptoms, as excessive body weight can contribute to osteoarthitic pain. Physical therapy or occupational therapy can help increase flexibility and reduce pain.
Cortisone and lubrication injections have been prescribed for patients for whom conservative treatments don’t help. In severe cases, joint replacement should be considered, since damage to joints cannot be repaired.