Arthritis vs Osteoarthritis: What’s the Difference?

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You might be wondering: what’s the difference between arthritis and osteoarthritis? If you’re asking yourself this, read more!

Your body is your most valuable asset. Without a strong and healthy body, everyday tasks become difficult. That explains why depression and anxiety can be two to 10 times greater in people with arthritis compared to the general population.

Arthritis is a debilitating disease. While some people live with mild symptoms, others endure severe pain that disrupts their lifestyle.

Osteoarthritis is one of the top causes of joint discomfort in adults. But what is osteoarthritis, and how is it different from arthritis? Let’s explore.

What Is Arthritis?

Arthritis is inflammation of the joints. It can be widespread or affect a specific region of the body.

How does arthritis form? It begins in our cartilage, the firm but flexible connective tissue in your joints. Cartilage protects your joints from pressure and stress by cushioning them. When cartilage decreases, a person experiences pain.

Arthritis causes joint discomfort, inflammation, and swelling. It decreases a person’s range of motion. Some people notice red or puffy skin around the inflamed joints.

Doctors check for arthritis by performing a physical exam. They inspect the fluid around your joints and range of motion. Doctors may use blood samples to inspect inflammation levels and check for arthritis antibodies.

Over 22% of American adults, which equals 52.5 million people, have been diagnosed with some form of arthritis. According to the latest CDC statistics, 49.6% of people over 65 and 29.3% of people between 45 and 65 suffer from arthritis.

Arthritis is a broad term to describe joint pain. The causes of arthritis depend on the type of arthritis. There are over a hundred types of arthritis, including osteoarthritis.

What Is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis (OA) is tied with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) as the most prevalent form of arthritis.

Osteoarthritis is a form of arthritis that primarily affects joints along the hands, knees, hips, feet, and spine. It occurs when the protective cartilage at the end of the bones wears down. Without a protective cartilage cushion, a person experiences chronic discomfort, aching, tenderness, and swelling in the affected joints.

A person suffering from osteoarthritis may experience a loss of flexibility in specific joints. They may experience frequent popping and cracking when they use their joints. Bone spurs (extra bits of bone that feel like hard lumps) can develop around an infected joint.

Osteoarthritis Causes and Risk Factors

Osteoarthritis may often be referred to as a “wear and tear” disease. It breaks down cartilage that cushions joints. OA deteriorates the bone’s connective tissues that hold the joint together and attach muscles to bones. This results in inflammation along the joint’s lining.

There are a variety of risk factors that increase a person’s chance of developing osteoarthritis. The most significant risk factor is age. Every year a person ages, the likelihood of OA increases.

Sex also raises your risk, with women developing OA more often than men.

Those who suffer severe joint injuries in sports or accidents are more prone to osteoarthritis. A person’s risk also increases if he or she puts repeated stress on specific joints. Obesity stresses your hips and knees, which raises your risk of OA.

Other osteoarthritis risk factors include genetics, bone deformities, and diabetes.

Types of Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis attacks specific regions of the body. It most commonly affects the hands, knees, spine, and hips.

Osteoarthritis Hands

Hand OA commonly affects the base of the thumb, the joint closest to the fingertip, and the middle joint of a finger. Osteoarthritis of the hand causes bones in the outermost joints of the fingers and the middle finger joints to grow and become misaligned.

About half of women and a fourth of men will experience OA of the hands by the time they reach 85.

OA hands cause stiffness and loss of motion in the fingers. It causes a person’s hands to make crackling noises and become weak. Hand osteoarthritis makes simple tasks, like opening a jar, very difficult.

Osteoarthritis of the Knee

Knee osteoarthritis begins as a mild discomfort. Over time, it can escalate into severe pain that requires surgery.

OA breaks down the knee’s cartilage to prevent it from protecting your knee joints.

It also attacks the synovium, a soft joint lining that produces synovial fluid. The fluid keeps your joints lubricated as well as provides nutrients and oxygen to the knee’s cartilage.

As the cartilage and synovium break down, your knee bones lose protection. As a result, your knee becomes damaged. People with knee OA experience stiff, painful, and weak knees that become worse over time.

Osteoarthritis of the Hips

The hip is one of the largest joints in the human body. The hip is covered with articular cartilage. This smooth and lubricated element cushions the hip bones and allows them to move easily.

Similar to the knees, the hip also has a lining of synovium to keep it lubricated.

Hip OA attacks the hip’s cartilage and synovium. As the protective linings strip away, bone rubs against bone. Sometimes, damaged bones create bone spurs.

The beginning stages of hip OA cause dull aches and discomfort. As the condition worsens, so does the pain. OA of the hips causes discomfort from a person’s groin that reaches to the knees. It creates hip stiffness that makes it difficult to walk or bend over, so many with hip OA walk with a limp.

Spinal Osteoarthritis

One in five people experience back pain, and osteoarthritis can contribute. Spinal OA typically occurs in people over 40.

Spinal OA breaks down joint cartilage on discs located in a person’s lower back and neck. OA can cause bone spurs along the spinal column that create weakened arms and legs.

Spinal osteoarthritis causes stiffness, numbness, and discomfort in the back and neck. The disease makes it difficult to do certain activities, like sit upright. Spinal OA often improves when a person is lying down. Some people experience severe spinal OA that leads to life-long disabilities.

Osteoarthritis Treatment and Prevention

Osteoarthritis treatments combine lifestyle improvements with medications.

Doctors typically recommend Tylenol as an over-the-counter pain and inflammation reducer. It’s best for the early stages of arthritis. Aspirin and ibuprofen are used when a person experiences multiple OA symptoms in different areas of the body.

Topical medications that include menthol or capsaicin can soothe skin and reduce swelling. Severe OA cases may require more intense medications, like corticosteroid injections. PRP therapy is a non-surgical treatment that uses blood platelets to decrease joint pain.

Most doctors recommend physical therapy to OA patients. Physical strength and endurance training improves muscle strength, lowers pain, improves balance, and increases range of motion.

To prevent OA, maintain a healthy lifestyle. Regular exercise enhances balance and reduces your risk of an injury. It helps your joints stay healthy and keeps your weight in check.

Combine regular physical activity with a wholesome diet to ensure you maintain a healthy weight. A healthy weight decreases stress on your joints and bones, lowering your risk of OA.

Rejuvenate Your Body

Arthritis is no joke, and osteoarthritis wreaks havoc on a person’s hips, hands, spine, and knees. If you’re experiencing pain due to osteoarthritis, PRP therapy is an excellent treatment option.

PRP therapy can be applied to the wrist, knee, foot, ankle, elbow, and shoulder. It’s a safe and non-surgical treatment proven to decrease joint pain. Contact us to learn more about how PRP therapy can rejuvenate your body.

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