Osteoarthritis is often described as a ‘wear and tear’ of the joints. It commonly affects the hips, knees, back and hands, but can affect other joints too. Osteoarthritis results from the breakdown of joint cartilage and underlying bone. The common osteoarthritis symptoms are joint pain and stiffness and it can have significant effects on people’s lives.
Osteoarthritis is believed to be due to mechanical stress on the joint and cycles of low grade inflammation. Other causes include previous trauma to the joints, abnormal mechanical stresses across the joint and genetic factors.
There is no cure for osteoarthritis, but the mainstay of treatment is physiotherapy, anti-inflammatories and pain killers. Unfortunately there are often problems with taking these medications routinely for pain and many patients do not like taking them at all. If patients are unable to tolerate these medications, or if they are not effective, patients are sometimes offered a joint replacement but there are significant risks with surgery too.