Osteoarthritis

Arthritis is a general term that describes inflammation in joints. Osteoarthritis, also called OA or degenerative joint disease, is the most common type of arthritis. It is associated with a breakdown of cartilage in joints and commonly occurs in the hands, fingertips, hips, knees, and spine. OA is often a slow-developing disease that can be hard to diagnose until it starts to cause painful or debilitating symptoms.

The most common symptoms of osteoarthritis include:

  • Pain
  • Tenderness
  • Stiffness
  • Inflammation

At Mark Miller, MD, we help patients in the St. Louis area who are suffering from osteoarthritis. Our experienced orthopedic specialist, Dr. Miller, has the knowledge and skill you can count on. For quality orthopedic care, contact us today!

Schedule an Appointment

What Causes Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is caused by joint damage, which can accumulate over time. That is why age is one of the main causes of joint damage leading to osteoarthritis. Past injuries, such as torn cartilage, dislocated joints, and ligament injuries, can also cause joint damage that leads to osteoarthritis.

What is Cartilage?

Cartilage is a firm, rubbery material that covers the ends of bones in normal joints. Its main function is to reduce friction in the joints and serve as a “shock absorber.” The shock-absorbing quality of normal cartilage comes from its ability to change shape when compressed. Cartilage can change shape because it contains more than 70 percent water, which can be redistributed with movement. For example, when force is applied to a knee, as in standing or walking, some water from cartilage enters the joint and coats the cartilage. When the force is no longer present, such as when you sit down, the water is reabsorbed and the cartilage regains its normal shape. Because cartilage does not contain nerves, you do not feel pain when these changes in shape occur.

Osteoarthritis causes the cartilage in a joint to become stiff and lose its elasticity, making it more susceptible to damage. Over time, the cartilage may wear away in some areas, greatly decreasing its ability to act as a shock-absorber. As the cartilage wears away, tendons and ligaments stretch, causing pain. If the condition worsens, the bones could rub against each other.

Osteoarthritis Treatment

Osteoarthritis can’t be reversed, but treatments can decrease joint pain and stiffness, improve joint mobility and stability, and increase the ability to perform daily activities.

Osteoarthritis is commonly treated with:

  • Medications – Acetaminophen and other pain relievers reduce pain. NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen and naproxen reduce swelling as well as pain. Corticosteroids are prescription medications that are available orally or given by injection directly into a joint.
  • Exercise – Physical activity strengthens the muscles around your joints and may help relieve stiffness. Movement from 20 to 30 minutes at least every other day can make a positive impact. We recommend gentle, low-impact activities, such as walking, swimming, yoga, etc. to improve joint flexibility and help with pain management. Stretching can also help improve mobility and range of motion.
  • Heat and cold therapy – Applying heat and cold to the joint can relieve muscle pain and stiffness. We recommend applying a cold or hot compress to sore joints for 15 to 20 minutes throughout the day.
  • Supportive devices – Using assistive devices, such as crutches or canes, can help relieve stress on your joints by taking the weight off your knee or hip as you walk.
  • Controlling one’s weight – Being overweight can put strain on your joints and cause pain. Losing excess pounds can help relieve pressure and reduce pain.
  • Surgery – When other treatment options have not been effective in relieving pain, knee arthroscopic surgery may be an option. This could involve smoothing cartilage damage or replacing the joint.

What are Glucosamine Sulfate and Chondroitin Sulfate?

The common treatment methods previously listed do not change the progression of osteoarthritis. Because the breakdown of cartilage is a significant part of osteoarthritis, researchers have been focusing their efforts on finding agents to prevent this breakdown. Glucosamine and chondroitin are two of the most well-known nutritional supplements linked to treating osteoarthritis. A number of past studies have come to mixed conclusions — some finding that people felt better taking glucosamine and/or chondroitin, while just as many have found no benefit.

Glucosamine and chondroitin are compounds of normal cartilage. These nutritional supplements are available in pharmacies and health food stores without a prescription. They are the building blocks for cartilage. The supplements are well-tolerated and safe. Because these supplements stimulate the production of new cartilage components, it is thought that the supplements may be able to help the body repair damaged cartilage.

How Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate Can Help Osteoarthritis

It has not been proved that glucosamine and chondroitin sulfates rebuild cartilage. However, there is evidence that these compounds reduce pain from osteoarthritis, and hopefully slow down the progress of osteoarthritis usually within several weeks to months after initiating therapy.

The supplements are marketed under different names, with different strengths. The recommended dosage is 1,500 mg/day. It usually costs about $30/month to take the recommended dosage. If you have any additional questions regarding glucosamine and chondroitin please contact us.

St. Louis Osteoarthritis Doctor

Don’t suffer from debilitating osteoarthritis pain any longer. Dr. Miller can evaluate your arthritis and develop a treatment plan to help you get the relief you need. Visit Mark Miller, MD for expert orthopedic care in the St. Louis area.

Schedule an Appointment

Accreditations & Associations