Osteoarthritis is a disease that affects all of us as we age, according
to Cynthia Weaver, MD,
St. Luke's Rheumatology Associates. "One of the biggest factors is weight," says Dr. Weaver. "Twenty
extra pounds of weight doubles the risk of getting osteoarthritis in your
knees." Weight control can eliminate the added pressure that causes
stress on the joints.
Diagnosis and Treatment
There are more than 100 different types of arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is one of the most common, and it's caused by the cartilage wearing
away over time. Diagnosis is based on a physical exam, health history,
and labs and X-rays. The goal of treatment is to relieve pain and prevent
the progressive changes that can make the condition worse. Losing weight
helps reduce stress on the joints, and anti-inflammatory medications and
cortisone injections can also relieve pain.
Simple Exercise and Holistic Treatments May Bring Relief
Relief from osteoarthritis can come from simple exercise. "Whatever
you can do to strengthen the muscles around the joints helps relieve pain,"
she says. Walking, and even a swim class in warm water, can help. Some
holistic treatments also offer relief. "The National Institutes of
Health (NIH) did a study on glucosamine chondroitin, and it showed that
it doesn't slow the progression of disease," says Dr. Weaver.
"And only one in three patients had pain relief." Tumeric and
ginger root have been shown to relieve osteoarthritis pain. Talk with
your doctor about which exercises and holistic treatments may be right for you.
Early Treatment is Important
If you have arthritis pain, talk to your doctor and ask to see a rheumatology
specialist. "Early treatment helps prevent the disease from progressing,"
says Dr. Weaver. "We want to preserve as much function as possible."