What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a condition that causes joints to become painful, stiff and difficult to move. It can affect almost any joint in the body, but osteoarthritis most often causes problems in the knees, hips and small joints of the hands. The condition can affect other areas too, including your lower back, neck, and big toes.

A recent Versus Arthritis UK data report states that:

  • An estimated 10 million people (6 million women, 4 million men) in the UK have osteoarthritis (OA), with an estimated 5.4 million people affected by knee OA and 3.2 million by hip OA.
  • An estimated 350,000 people are diagnosed with OA each year.

Causes and Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

Several factors are thought to increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis, including:

  • joint injury and insufficient recovery time following an injury
  • joints severely damaged by a previous or existing condition
  • ageing
  • family history of osteoarthritis
  • obesity – as it places additional stress on weight bearing joints
  • being a woman

Traditionally, osteoarthritis was known as “wear and tear” arthritis because it was thought that the joints gradually wore out with use and that this was an inevitable part of ageing. It is now known that the process of osteoarthritis is much more complicated: it occurs when damage leads to changes within a joint, including a loss of protective cartilage and the development of bony growths.

The main symptoms of osteoarthritis are joint pain and stiffness, and problems moving the joint. Some people also experience swelling, tenderness and a grating or crackling sound when using the affected joints.

Osteoarthritis symptoms can vary greatly from person to person, and between affected joints. Some people experience mild symptoms which come and go, while others can experience more continuous and severe problems, making it difficult to carry out everyday activities.

X ray of arthritis knee
hip joint with osteoarthritis
Stages of osteoarthritis

Treatment and Management

Osteoarthritis is a long-term condition, but that doesn’t mean its symptoms can’t be relieved or that it will worsen over time. There are a number of ways for sufferers to help manage the condition and its symptoms:

  • Manual therapy – chiropractors use a range of treatment techniques including manipulation, joint mobilisation, stretching, and tissue massage to help provide relief from pain, swelling and stiffness in the affected areas.  Your chiropractor will also give you a range of therapeutic exercises to help you manage your symptoms and improve joint function
  • Regular exercise to help keep the muscles and joints strong and increase support and stability in the affected areas
  • Maintaining a healthy weight to avoid adding additional stress to the joints
  • Wearing suitable footwear

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