By: Mark Castleden
What causes osteoarthritis and how can I stay mobile even though my knees are affected?
You should not just regard osteoarthritis as a wear and tear problem, although undoubtedly abnormal exercise or use of a joint, together with excess weight, aggravate the problem. Population studies have failed to show a clear relationship of osteoarthritis to previous trauma. Obesity is an important risk factor for osteoarthritis of the knees, but it is unclear how much its effect is systemic (on the body) and how much is biomechanical. Excessive mobility of the joint may be another predisposing factor. There is usually a strong association with age, family, and geographical location.
Osteoarthritis cannot be reversed and the aim must be to modify a problem that cannot be eliminated. People require not only early diagnosis with identification of its causes and complications, but also prevention, assessment of the main symptoms and dysfunction, assessment of handicap and assessment of the whole person. From this assessment, appropriate treatment of the joint itself and of the person can be made. This requires skilled assessment by a physician specialising in joint problems. For example, a walking stick can be remarkably helpful, splinting to correct instability can help or the use of special shoes with good shock absorbing insoles may be all that is required. It is obviously vital to modify pain, usually with drug therapy, which may be given locally into the joint. For those who cannot be managed by these simple regimes there is always surgery.