Types of Osteoarthritis, Symptoms and Prevention

Joints that have been overworked such as the left or right knee, shoulder or wrist gets more affected by osteoarthritis.

Updated: November 4, 2019


Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, and is a leading cause of disability in millions of people worldwide. Most commonly it affects joints in your hands, knees, hips and spine, typically at the neck or lower back . Although the underlying process cannot be reversed, the symptoms can be effectively managed.
Wear and tear on the joints results in osteoarthritis. Joints that have been overworked such as the left or right knee, shoulder or wrist gets more affected by this kind of arthritis. Osteoarthritis does not affect other organs of the body. Symptoms of osteoarthritis vary from patient to patient. Some patients can have severe symptoms while other can have have remarkably few symptoms . There could be degeneration of the joints in spite of non remarkable symptoms which can be diagnosed in X-rays. Symptoms also can be intermittent. For patients with osteoarthritis of the finger joints of the hands and knees it is not unusual to have years of pain-free intervals between symptoms.
Osteoarthritis of the cervical spine or lumbar spine causes pain in the neck or low back. When bony spurs, called osteophytes, are formed along the arthritic spine that can irritate spinal nerves, causing severe pain which can radiate from the spine as well as numbness and tingling of the affected parts of the body. Bony enlargements of the small joints of the fingers can be caused by osteoarthritis which are hard. Bony enlargement of the small joint at the end of the fingers is called a Heberden's node.
The bony deformity is a result of the bone spurs from the osteoarthritis in that joint. When the bony knob occurs at the middle joint of the fingers, it is called a Bouchard's node. Heberden's and Bouchard's nodes may not be painful, but they can affect motion of the joint. The characteristic appearances of these finger nodes can be helpful in diagnosing osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis of the joint at the base of the big toe of the foot leads to the formation of a bunion. OA is a chronic condition that doesn't have a cure, but can get relief from the symptoms with proper treatment and self care.

Symptoms of  Osteoarthritis:

People with osteoarthritis may experience the following symptoms:

  • morning stiffness
  • pain and stiffness in the joints
  • rubbing, grating, or crackling sound when a joint is moved
  • pain that becomes worse after exercise or pressure on the joint
  • pain that causes sleep disturbances
  • inflammation

The pain associated with OA may become more intense as it becomes more advanced. Swelling in the joint and surrounding area may also occur over time. You can better manage the condition if symptoms of OA is recognized in early stage.

Symptoms of Severe Osteoarthritis:

Extensive or complete loss of cartilage in one or more joints is the condition of severe osteoarthritis. The symptoms may include:

Increased swelling and inflammation:

The amount of synovial fluid which helps reduce friction during movement may increase. The excessive amount of this fluid can cause joint swelling. Fragments of broken-off cartilage may also float within the synovial fluid, increasing pain and swelling.

Increased pain:

Not only you may feel pain during activities, but also when you are taking rest. As the day progresses, you may feel an increase in your pain level or more swelling in your joints if you have over used them.

Decreased range of motion:

Due to stiffness or pain in your joints, you may not be able to move. Day-to-day activities becomes harder because of less mobility.

Joint instability:

Your joints may become less stable which can cause falls and injury. you may experience locking and buckling when your knees are affected.

Other symptoms:

Muscle weakness, bone spurs, and joint deformity may also occur as a joint continues to wear down. The joint damage caused by severe OA is not reversible, but treatment can help reduce symptoms.

Hand OA:

Several areas of your hands including the tips of the fingers, the middle knuckle of each finger, the joint connecting the thumb and the wrist, and the wrist itself can get affected when osteoarthritis occurs in your hands.
The joints that are affected largely can have the following symptoms:

  • pain
  • stiffness
  • redness
  • swelling
  • trouble moving your fingers
  • reduced range of motion
  • crunching sound when you move your fingers
  • trouble gripping or holding onto objects
  • weakness

Hand OA mostly occur in women compare to men and at a younger age. It can have a big impact on your ability to do the daily activities. However, treatments ranging from lifestyle changes to surgery can help reducing the symptoms.

Hip OA:

OA can occur in one or both hips. In case of RA, usually it occurs in both hips at the same time. Hip OA is a slowly degenerative condition. Therefore it is possible to to combat the symptoms for many years by using medication, exercise, and physical therapy. Supports, such as canes, can also help. Steroid injections, other medications, or surgery can help provide relief if the condition worsens.

Knee OA:

Age, genetics, and knee injury may be the cause of knee OA which can occur in one or both knees like hip OA. Athletes who are involved in one type of sport such as running or tennis , may be at increased risk of knee OA. This is because it that creates extensive and repetitive motion in one area of your body. If you do only one type of physical activity, some muscles may be overused and others are underused, causing weakness and instability in the knee joint. Varying your activities helps to work different muscle groups, allowing all the muscles around your knee to be strengthened.
Depending on the stage of the condition, the treatment of knee OA can be done. A nonsurgical treatment for knee OA is wearing a brace around your knee which can reduce swelling and pressure. By shifting your weight away from the damaged part of your knee they can increase stability in your knee. This allows for greater mobility. Several types of knee braces are available as OTC. Some may be custom fitted for you. You should try different kinds of braces for different activities.

Cervical OA:

Cervical OA is also known as neck OA or as cervical spondylosis. It is an age-related condition that affects most of the people over the age of 60 and can occur in both men and women. The cervical spine is located in the neck. It contains facet joints that help to maintain flexibility in the spine, allowing for a full range of motion. Cervical OA results when the cartilage around the facet joints starts to wear away.
Cervical OA doesn't always cause symptoms. Sometimes the symptoms can be mild to severe and include:

  • pain in your shoulder blade, down your arm, or in your fingers
  • stiffness in your neck
  • muscle weakness
  • headache, mostly in the back of your head
  • tingling or numbness down your arms or legs

Loss of bladder or bowel control, or loss of balance are some of the rare symptoms that can occur occasionally.

Spinal OA:

Back pain is associated with spinal osteoarthritis which affects the facet joints located in the lower back and buttocks. Age and spine trauma are both potential factors in spinal OA along with gender. Women are more likely to get this condition compared to men. The risk of getting this kind of OA increases for those people who are overweight, or whose jobs require squatting and sitting.
Symptoms of spinal OA can vary in severity which include:

  • back pain
  • stiffness or tenderness in the joints in your back
  • weakness, numbness, or tingling in your arms or legs
  • reduced range of motion

Don't ignore symptoms of chronic joint pain and stiffness. The earlier you speak with your doctor, the sooner you can receive a diagnosis, begin treatment, and improve your quality of life.

Prevention of Osteoarthritis:

Some of the risk factors such as heredity, age, and gender can not be controlled where as other risk factors can be controlled. Maintaining overall good health and strength with exercise and good nutrition can be beneficial in preventing OA.
The following tips can help you manage the risk factors under your control:

Support your body:

If you are an athlete, make sure to wear athletic supports and shoes that reduce impact on your knees. Also make sure to get involve in variety of sports, so that all of your muscles get a workout.
While doing exercise you need to keep in mind to do different types of activities so that the same muscles is not workout every time. The same joints should not be overworked every time. If you have overdone any exercise, you may feel a new joint pain which may lasts for hours after you exercise. In that case you should resume a day or two and later start again with a slightly lower level of intensity. Exercise not only strengthens the muscular support around the joints but also prevents the joints from freezing up and improves and maintains joint mobility. It also helps with weight reduction and promotes endurance.

Watch your weight:

Try to maintain your body mass index (BMI) in the appropriate range for your height and gender.

Keep a healthy diet:

Eat a range of healthy foods including fresh vegetables and fruits. A balanced diet can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight and control inflammation. Cut down refined, processed foods and pro-inflammatory animal-derived foods from your diet. Instead choose whole plant foods that are high in antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties.

Get enough rest:

Give your body enough of rest and sleep. Rest is equally important as physical activities when your disease is active. Resting sore joints decreases stress on the joints, and relieves pain and swelling. Patients are asked to simply decrease the intensity and/or frequency of the activities that consistently cause joint pain.
Poor sleep can aggravate arthritis pain and fatigue. Improve sleep hygiene so that you can find it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. Avoid caffeine and strenuous exercise in the evenings. Restrict screen-time just before sleeping by switching off your television, mobile phones and laptop.
If you have diabetes, controlling your blood sugar can also help manage your risk of OA.


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