All joints in the body wear, this is a fact of life and of using our bodies. However, ‘abnormal’ wear and tear is referred to as osteoarthritis (OA) and is characterised by damage to the surface of the joint.

The main symptoms of OA are pain and, sometimes, mild stiffness. The condition can also be referred to as osteoarthrosis, arthrosis or degenerative joint disease. It is a  slow process that can take place over many years.

Where two or more bones meet in a joint the ends of the bones are covered by a thin layer of gristle called cartilage. The cartilage has a smooth and slippery surface which allows the joint ends to move easily over one another. It also provides some cushioning to the bone and spreads any loads evenly.

A joint with abnormal wear and tear roughens the cartilage and it becomes thinner, the underlying bone becomes thicker. This new bone may be the bodies attempt at protecting itself and repairing the damage, instead it can form little boney spurs called osteophytes. With the damage to the joint comes inflammation which can produce extra fluid and makes the joint swell.

In severe cases of OA the cartilage can become so thin that the bones end up touching and rubbing together. The extra bone growth at the edges can alter the shape of the joint and ultimately change the alignment of the bones resulting in deformity.

Self treatment top tips:
  • Keep active – it is important to keep your joints moving.
  • Reduce the strain on the joints, this can be via:
    • spacing out activities so as not to do too much in one go
    • good quality supportive footwear
    • minimising and correcting any abnormal alignment issues to reduce the abnormal wear and tear on the joint, usually via specific functional orthotics.
  • Weight loss if you are over weight. Less weight = less force through affected joints and therefore less aggravation and pain.

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