In simplest terms, osteoarthritis is the slow erosion or wearing away of the cartilage that protects the joints.
In healthy joints, firm, rubbery cartilage covers the end of each bone, providing a cushion between the bones and enabling them to move easily without friction. Over time, this cartilage can break down, and, bone can rubs against bone, causing the classic symptoms of osteoarthritis — pain and swelling.
Chances are if your mother or father had arthritis, you will too. Prior damage or injury to the joint, most often through sports, can increase the risk for developing arthritis. Repetitive motion and excess weight also puts additional pressure on joints that can cause cartilage to break down faster.
Joint pain becomes a concern when it doesn’t improve after you’re up and moving for 30 to 60 minutes in the mornings; is accompanied by fever, redness or swelling; or persists for more than a week or for several episodes in a month.
One of the best ways to manage osteoarthritis is through physical activity. Exercise can help keep the joints lubricated and flexible, and can also help strengthen the surrounding muscles that support the joints. When joint symptoms are severe, however, and cannot be managed through conservative measures, joint replacement surgery may be necessary.
Arthritis treatment often involves a combination of pain medication, physical therapy to strengthen joints, occupational therapy to learn how to protect joints when you move, assistive devices and therapies such as acupuncture.
The Jim Craigie Center for Joint Replacement At Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center offers a comprehensive approach to joint replacement surgery including special technology and patient specific guides to help size and place joint components more accurately as well as robotic arm-assisted hip and knee procedures.
In addition to these technical innovations, the Jim Craigie Center also recently began offering outpatient joint replacement procedures, allowing patients who meet certain criteria to undergo hip or knee replacement surgery and return home just hours later.
Osteoarthritis can occur in any joint in your body, but is most common in the knees, hips and spine. While it can occur at any age, it is most common in people older than 65. However, while it may seem like an inevitable part of aging, it can be treated so you can live with less pain and possibly no pain at all.
By W. Thomas Gutowski, III, M.D., F.A.A.O.S. To learn more about the Jim Craigie Center for Joint Replacement, visit PrincetonHCS.org or call 888-742-7496.