Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that causes the cartilage, which cushions and protects the joints, to slowly erode a way. This increases friction every time the joints are used, roughing up the cartilage, and could eventually lead to bone touching bone. The cartilage at the end of a healthy bone should not be quite as hard as bone and it should be less flexible than muscle, thus promoting nice, fluid movements at the joints. Areas of the body made up of cartilage include the nose, ears, and all of the joints. It is mainly the joints of the hands, knees, hips, and spine that are affected by osteoarthritis.
The signs and symptoms that may occur at joints afflicted with osteoarthritis include the following:
- Joint pain and tenderness
- Stiffness, especially in the morning
- Loss of mobility and flexibility
- Crepitus–a crinkly sensation or a grating sound arising from movement of the joints
- Bone spurs–an outgrowth of tiny, bony slivers found along the edge of a bone
The following list includes risk factors for osteoarthritis:
- Advanced age
- Female gender
- Prior injuries
- Certain genetic bone deformities
There is no known cure for osteoarthritis, so standard Western medical treatment will often focus on managing symptoms with drug therapy–using certain NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and other analgesics such as ibuprofen. However, these drugs provide only temporary relief from pain and may cause side effects such as stomach cramps, dizziness and, at worst, difficulty breathing. Fortunately, studies reveal the ability of acupuncture and Oriental medicine can provide significant pain relief in those with osteoarthritis.
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About the Author: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.