Even if they’ve never experienced it themselves, most people are familiar with the broad symptoms of arthritis – swollen and stiff joints, finding it difficult to move and the pain that can occur as a result. But although arthritis is often used as a blanket term for such symptoms, there are actually many different kinds of arthritis – more than 100 – some of which can have vastly differing causes, treatments and outcomes.
One of the most common forms is osteoarthritis, which affects an estimated 1 in 4 Australians over age 65.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease, which causes cartilage – the flexible, rubbery material that acts as a cushion between joints in the body – to gradually break down.
(This differs from another common form of arthritis – rheumatoid arthritis – in which the joints become inflamed as a result of a viral infection affecting the fluid in the joints, although they can present similar symptoms.)
Over time, this can result in the bones on either side of the cartilage broadening and thickening. If the cartilage continues to deteriorate, the bones grind against one another – all of which can result in restricted mobility and serious pain. Areas commonly affected include the knees, spine, hips and hands, though it can occur elsewhere on the body too.
Osteoarthritis has a number of causes, but two of the most common are joint overuse (which is particularly common among athletes) and injuries to the joint itself, which may damage the cartilage and lead to degeneration at a later date.
Obesity is also a strong contributing factor. On a per capita basis, Australia is currently one of the most overweight countries in the world, which means more people are at risk due to the pressure that excess weight can place on the joints and bones.
Additionally, while osteoarthritis (and arthritis in general) is not a direct result of getting older, aging increases the risk of developing the condition. Natural wear and tear on bones, joints and cartilage throughout life can all be contributing factors.
In Part Two, we take a look at some of the most common pain management techniques and treatments for osteoarthritis. Visit Panadol’s website for more information on Panadol Osteo – specially formulated to help provide long-lasting relief from persistent pain.