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Osteoarthritis in New Jersey

Osteoarthritis describes a condition in which the cartilage of the joints is damaged, causing swelling, stiffness, and other symptoms. At Performance Rehabilitation in Totowa and Lafayette Township, we offer comprehensive, patient-centered treatments for osteoarthritis to the residents of New Jersey.

What is Osteoarthritis?

Inflammation of the joints is a common arthritic condition that affects individuals of any age but is usually diagnosed in older adults who have developed wear and tear of their cartilage. Cartilage breakdown occurs in any joint in the body and is most often found in weight-bearing joints such as those in the spine, knees and hips. Osteoarthritis is also diagnosed frequently in the large toe, neck or fingers. Other joints in the body are not usually affected by osteoarthritis unless a joint is damaged by an underlying cartilage disorder, excessive stress or previous injury.

The primary function of cartilage is to absorb shocks and reduce friction with its rubbery but firm material that protects the ends of healthy bones and joints. Healthy cartilage changes shape as it compresses, helping with shock absorption to prevent pain. Unfortunately, osteoarthritis leads to stiff cartilage that loses its elasticity, increasing the possibility of more damage to joints. Over many years, an individual’s cartilage wears away, especially in commonly used joints of the body, leading to less shock absorption. Eventually, ligaments and tendons near the joints begin to stretch as the cartilage continues to deteriorate. This may lead to bones rubbing, causing intense pain.

Who Gets Osteoarthritis?

Experts estimate that 27 million individuals in the United States have arthritis, and as people age, they are more likely to develop this condition. After age 60, most individuals have some degree of osteoarthritis, but this condition also affects younger people with repetitive joint stress or injury. For individuals over age 50, more women than men are diagnosed with this form of arthritis.

What are the Symptoms of Osteoarthritis?

There are several common symptoms of osteoarthritis that usually develop gradually often making the condition difficult to diagnose, such as:

  • Chronic swelling of joints such as the knees
  • Bony deformities of the end or middle joints of the fingers
  • Joint stiffness after sleeping or sitting
  • Discomfort in joints after inactivity
  • Aching joints while walking or using hands

What Causes Osteoarthritis?

There are a variety of factors that can lead to an individual developing osteoarthritis.

  • Overuse of Joints

Certain activities can cause joint wear and tear that leads to osteoarthritis. For example, runners often develop knee pain, or typists may experience finger joint damage.

  • Previous Trauma Injuries

An injury to a joint makes it more susceptible to developing osteoarthritis. An individual who breaks a hip in a fall is more likely to have cartilage damage that leads to osteoarthritis of that hip at a younger age.

  • Other Health Conditions

Certain health problems such as having rheumatoid arthritis increase the chances of also having osteoarthritis. Other medical problems that lead to osteoarthritis include having excess growth hormones or iron in the body.

  • Obesity

Carrying additional weight on the body causes more wear and tear on the joints that bear weight while running or walking. Losing and maintaining weight reduces the chances of developing osteoarthritis, and also decreases joint pain for those already diagnosed with the condition.

  • Heredity

Genetic defects that occur in family groups can lead to problems with cartilage development near the joints or rapid joint deterioration. An individual born with deformities of the spine or joints such as spinal curvature are at higher risk of developing osteoarthritis.

How is Osteoarthritis Diagnosed?

Physical therapists diagnose a patient with osteoarthritis based on a combination of several factors, such as:

  • X-rays and other medical images that reveal joint damage
  • Physical examination to find swollen or enlarged joints
  • The pattern and location of a patient’s joint pain
  • A patient’s description of his or her painful symptoms

X-rays and imaging help reveal the amount of damage to the joint, which is helpful in planning a course of treatment.

In addition, there are blood tests that help us determine if a patient has another type of arthritis. When fluid accumulates near painful or swollen joints, our specialists can use joint aspiration techniques to obtain samples used for microscope examination to determine if another disease is present.

How does Weight and Exercise Impact Osteoarthritis?

The best way to prevent osteoarthritis in the weight-bearing joints is by reducing stress while walking and standing. Losing weight decreases the constant amount of pressure on joints such as the spine, hips or knees and relieves pain in the joints of individuals already diagnosed with osteoarthritis. Overweight individuals with osteoarthritis should change their diet and increase physical activity with mild exercise in order to lose weight.

We recommend that people living with osteoarthritis take steps to alleviate the effects of this condition, such as:

  • Choosing gentle forms of movement such as yoga, walking or swimming to increase the flexibility and strength of joints and surrounding tissues, including tendons and muscles.
  • Walking on flat surfaces and other forms of mild exercise are recommended by physical therapists because it helps to keep cushioning fluids moving through the joints to prevent damage to cartilage.
  • Avoiding high-impact forms of exercise such as aerobics, jogging or running that cause pain in the joints.

With the support of the physical therapy team at Performance Rehabilitation, located in Totowa and Lafayette Township in New Jersey, you can ease the symptoms that are caused by osteoarthritis. Contact us today to schedule your personal consultation with one of our physical therapists.