While “arthritis” is a commonly known disease, it is generally misunderstood. In fact, arthritis is not a single disease, rather a way of referring to joint pain or joint disease. There are more than 100 types of arthritis and related conditions. Osteoarthritis (OA), which is also known as Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD), is one of the most common forms of arthritis, affecting nearly 27 million Americans according to the Arthritis Foundation.
Unlike other forms of inflammatory arthritis, OA is most common in older adults. It occurs when cartilage, the smooth, rubbery material that cushions each bone becomes thinned, damaged or worn away. The “wearing down” of cartilage leads to pain, swelling and joint stiffness, and as the disease continues to worsen over time, bone rubbing against bone can lead to joint damage and more intense pain.
Osteoarthritis can affect any joint, but mostly affects the knees, hips, hands and spine joints. While the cause of osteoarthritis is unknown and there is no cure, there are ways to relieve symptoms and improve joint function for those suffering from the disease:
- Exercise! Just 30 minutes of physical activity five times a week (150 minutes in total) can help significantly reduce joint pain and improve joint mobility in as little as four to six weeks. If you cannot fit in a whole 30 minutes, try breaking your exercise into three, 10-minute increments throughout the day. Any physical activity is better than none!
- Be SMART when it comes to physical activity:
- Start low and go slow. Begin with three to five minutes of physical activity twice a day and add activity in small amounts to allow your body to adjust.
- Modify activity if arthritis symptoms increase, but try to stay active.
- Activities should be low impact, such as walking, bicycling, water aerobics or dancing.
- Recognize safe and effective ways to be active. Consider exercise classes designed for people with arthritis. When planning your own activity, make sure to choose safe locations with sidewalks/pathways that are level (e.g., a neighborhood or park).
- Talk with your healthcare provider to help monitor chronic osteoarthritis symptoms.
- Watch your weight. If you are overweight, losing one pound can take four pounds of pressure off your knee joints! A weight loss of five percent helps reduce joint pain. Maintaining a healthy weight and physical activity are also beneficial with other chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease, which often affect those with OA.
- Eat right. While there is no specific diet for people with arthritis, studies have identified certain foods that can help control inflammation, strengthen bones and boost the immune system. Incorporating foods often found in the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes fish, vegetables, fruit and olive oil, have been found to promote good joint health.
Can osteoarthritis be prevented? Learn more about risk factors for osteoarthritis >>
Find the right physician
If you are experiencing severe pain, swelling or stiffness in your joints, it may be time to see one of the physicians at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center for further evaluation and treatment.
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- Osteoarthritis of the Knee
- Osteoarthritis of the Hip
- Stem Cell Therapy for Osteoarthritis
- Takeaways from Dr. Oskouei’s Stem Cell Therapy for Osteoarthritis Live Chat
About Dr. Mason
Amadeus Mason, MD, is an assistant professor in the Orthopaedics and Family Medicine departments at Emory University.
He is board certified in Sports Medicine with a special interest in track and field, running injuries and exercise testing. He has been trained in diagnostic musculoskeletal ultrasound, orthopedic stem cell therapy and Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy. Dr. Mason is Team Physician for USA Track & Field, Tucker High School, and Georgia Tech Track and Field.
Dr. Mason is a member of the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, the America Road Racing Medical Society, and the USA Track and Field Sports Medicine and Science Committee. He has been invited to be a resident physician at the US Olympic Training Center, a Sports Medicine consultant in his homeland of Jamaica and the Chief Medical Officer at multiple USA Track and Field international competitions. He is an annual speaker at the pre-race expo for PTRR, Publix marathon and Atlanta marathon commenting on a wide variety of topics related to athletics and running injuries.
Dr. Mason is an active member of the Atlanta running community. He attended Princeton University and was captain of the track team. His other sports interests include soccer, college basketball and football, and the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA). A Decatur resident, he is married with three children.