Osteoarthritis, the epidemic that advances in silence - Blog Hospital Ochoa

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07 April 2016 0 Comments

Arthrosis, a silent epidemic

Osteoarthritis is caused by wear of the cartilage which protects and covers the ends of bones and which also helps the movement of the joint. Whilst osteoarthritis can affect any joint, it is most often found in hands, hips, spine and knees. It consists mainly in the progressive wear of the articular cartilage. By this, we mean that it erodes the surface of the joints so that they rub against each other with movement, hence causing pain. It is the most common rheumatic disease in the world, especially amongst the elderly. Currently there is no treatment that can completely eliminate it, but therapeutic stockings can effectively reduce its effects.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 28% of the world population over the age of 60 shows signs of symptomatic osteoarthritis. And within this percentage, 80% of those people suffering from it also exhibit limited mobility.

According to the latest details from the Spanish Society of Rheumatology, osteoarthritis affects nearly 7 million people in Spain. And if we add to this, the number of families indirectly affected by the disease, for example living with people who suffer from it, this figure is multiplied drastically. Moreover, we are sure that if one thinks about it, nearly everybody knows someone, an acquaintance, a friend or a relative, currently suffering from it…

From current Spanish data available, we must emphasize that three-quarters of those affected by osteoarthritis are women. Nowadays, osteoarthritis is responsible for over 30% of work-related disabilities. In addition, experts point out that in 2020, thanks to increased life expectancy, it will become the fourth leading cause of total disability in Spain.

The possibility of developing osteoarthritis increases over the years. Furthermore, as mentioned before, it is more common for women and genetically predisposed individuals to be affected. The time of year when symptoms are triggered corresponds to the autumn and winter months, with the cold weather being a major contributing factor.

Osteoarthritis, even today, remains a chronic disease. It is also true that the inherent disability endured by sufferers of this infirmity in bygone times has currently been reduced to the minimum. Nowadays, with proper care and by following medical advice, the prevention of symptoms and their progression is a reality.

Treatment includes both physiotherapy and rehabilitation together with drugs and, as a last resort, surgery. Thanks to the combination of this package of measures, patients may experience great relief from their symptoms, even being able to lead an almost normal life. However, as is the case with many diseases, early diagnosis is very important, as well as following all instructions and recommended prescribed treatment by a qualified medical team.

No two patients with osteoarthritis are alike. Treatment depends on the combination of a number of measures. Let’s discuss some of them. There are different types of behaviour and habits that can slow its progression…

It is important to maintain a proper body weight and height according to your constitution. Obesity is one of the factors causing the disease and triggering its rapid progression. Being overweight is a major factor to avoid overloading the pressure on your locomotor system and joints. There is no need to adopt an aggressive, spartan diet. Moreover, there are no forbidden foods … A low calorie diet should suffice. Check with your doctor, he or she can easily guide you in this aspect.

It is important to monitor and correct postural habits. If your sofa is too old, it might be time to buy a new one. Recommended chairs are those which provide a straight and rigid back, where hips and knees maintain a natural position and angle. Feet should always be in contact with the ground. Finally, sleep on a flat, firm bed.

Healthy living and sport should become a habit. Physical exercise protects the joints, muscles become toned and more easily support pressure and body weight. A person with sedentary osteoarthritis will in time becomes completely dependent. Physical exercise of high intensity and rhythm is not required. Just to walk, cycle or swim regularly would suffice.

There are specific exercises for each joint which can be recommended once someone is affected by the disease. The smart thing to do is to request a list of these from your doctor or rheumatologist. Osteoarthritis is a disease with intermittent periods of pain. Therefore, periods of relative rest are sometimes necessary.

As a general rule, heat is beneficial to osteoarthritis. During painful episodes it can be applied to the affected joint area at home using various devices and solutions. This usually relieves and relaxes the muscles near the point of friction. However, there are occasions when the joint with osteoarthritis can suffer an outbreak of severe inflammation. In these cases, cold should be applied locally using ice packs or baths.

Be careful not to walk on very uneven ground and not to stand for hours without rest; to avoid overloading the joints. Carrying weight is not recommended either. Using a shopping trolley would be a good idea. If your knee and hip are affected by osteoarthritis, it is time to use a cane or similar walking aid.

Also avoid high heels, it is more appropriate to wear flat shoes. If you suffer from lumbar osteoarthritis, or of the hips or knees, you should be wearing shoes with thick soles to absorb the impact of the foot with the ground (silicone insoles, heel …).

Painkillers, anti-inflammatory creams, local infiltrations (injections) and a great many other drugs can prevent the progression of osteoarthritis. This does not mean that you are given carte blanche to do the typical Spanish self-medication. No way. Any treatment should be prescribed and supervised by your doctor.

There are many spas that offer treatments with mineral water, usually thermal waters, for the treatment of osteoarthritis. They are very beneficial for muscles with contractures (shortening/shrinkage). In any case it is essential to maintain a positive attitude towards life. Well managed osteoarthritis does not present any major limitations to personal and family life.

However, unfortunately there are cases of late diagnosis where the above measures may fail. If osteoarthritis is in a very advanced stage, surgery may be the correct solution. Some types of surgery aim to correct injuries and joint deformities or to replace damaged joints with prosthesis. These operations improve and relieve the continuous pain and retain joint mobility.

If any of the above applies to you, please contact our specialist team at Clinica Ochoa, who will advise you in a friendly and professional manner, offering the best solution and personalised treatment for your condition.

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