Osteoarthritis (OA)

Last Updated: August 16 2022

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a joint disease involving cartilage degradation. It’s not clear what exactly causes OA, but some risk factors include joint injury, overweight or obesity, aging, misaligned joints, and family history. Lots of supplements have been studied in people with OA, as have lifestyle interventions including weight loss and exercise.

Osteoarthritis (OA) falls under thePainandJoints & Bonescategories.

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a joint disease and the most common type of arthritis (inflammation of the joints) whose hallmark is cartilage degradation. It most commonly affects the joints of the hand, knee, hip, neck, and lower back.[1]

What are the main signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis?

Mild OA may not cause any noticeable symptoms. As it gets more severe, you may experience pain when moving that gets better with rest, joint stiffness after getting up from resting, poor joint range of motion, swelling after joint use, and a feeling of looseness or instability.[1]

How is osteoarthritis diagnosed?

A medical provider will diagnose osteoarthritis through a combination of physical examination, discussing your symptoms, using x-ray or MRI imaging, and ruling out other causes through further testing.[1] OA is often classified on the Kellgren-Lawrence scale, which ranges from 0 (no OA) to 4 (severe OA).[2]

What are some of the main medical treatments for osteoarthritis?

Medical treatment is usually reserved for more severe OA, and usually starts with high-dose acetaminophen and topical creams. It can then proceed to non-steroidal antiinflammatory drugs, and possibly tramadol in severe cases. Corticosteroid injections can also be used in certain circumstances. Joint replacement is possible for people with moderate to severe disease that clearly shows up on imaging.[3]

Have any supplements been studied for osteoarthritis?

Many supplements have been studied for osteoarthritis. A few examples include glucosamine & chondroitin (both components of cartilage), L-carnitine, pycnogenol, and curcumin.[4]

How could diet affect osteoarthritis?

The most clear dietary contributor to osteoarthritis is caloric excess leading to obesity, making weight loss one of the first-line suggestions for treating knee and hip OA.[5] There’s weaker but suggestive evidence that increasing long-chain omega-3 fatty acid consumption by eating more fatty fish can also help, as could increasing vitamin K intake.[6]

Are there any other treatments for osteoarthritis?

Physical therapy exercises are one of the first-line treatments for OA.[5][7] Heat packs can provide relief. There are mechanistic reasons for suspecting that applying heat could also slow OA progression, although this does not have strong clinical evidence.[7] Progressive exercises of all sorts can help with osteoarthritis. Some examples include aerobic exercise, resistance training, yoga, aquatic exercise, and Tai Chi.[8]

What causes osteoarthritis?

It’s not clear what the mechanism is behind the development of osteoarthritis. However, some risk factors are aging, past joint injury, misaligned joints, a family history, and overweight or obesity.[1]

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