Osteoarthritis – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Osteoarthritis, one of the most common conditions we see and treat at Integrative Sports Medicine, affects millions of people in the U.S.  Osteoarthritis can be, however, surprisingly treatable. Many of our patients are surprised at how much function they are able to get back and how rapidly their function and pain improved.  We often hear “You are the fourth doctor I have seen and the first to give me any hope.”

Osteoarthritis arises when enzymes actively eat away at cartilage. Most people think of it as “wear and tear”, but this isn’t necessarily accurate. The good news is, that these enzymes can be stopped with treatment and should be stopped with treatment, otherwise the osteoarthritis will continue to progress. As osteoarthritis progresses, cartilage breaks down cell by cell, day by day.  Knee arthritis and hip arthritis often times progress the fastest once the arthritis sets in.

Osteoarthritis mainly affects the weight-bearing joints: the knee, the hip, the ankle and the foot joints.  It can, however, appear in the rest of the joints of the body, most particularly the shoulder, the hands and the elbows. At times, it appears in the spine.  Osteoarthritis causes stiffness, most often in the morning, and pain during activity. A loss of range of motion can also signal that you need to seek out a Sports Medicine physician.

Treating osteoarthritis early is key.  The earlier we can identify and treat it, the better the chances we have of maintaining normal joint function. We want to avoid invasive treatments like surgery as long as possible as the spectrum of success with surgery ranges from “100% better all the way to “much worse than before the surgery.”  

Non-operative treatments generally do not have as much medical risk. At Integrative Sports Medicine, we have a special interest in cartilage. When you schedule an appointment, your joint will be diagnosed with x-ray generally, and if appropriate, treated at our office.  If the situation is not appropriate for non-operative treatment, we will offer you additional options including giving you a referral to see a surgeon.