What is Osteoarthritis

Published: February 13, 2014

Arthritis is a term used to describe inflammation of the joints. Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis and is usually caused by deterioration of a joint. The weight-bearing joints are most typically affected, especially the hips and knees. Approximately 27 million people in the United States have OA. It is the most common cause of disability in our adult population.

Bones are connected by joints such as the knee or hip. A rubbery substance called cartilage covers the bones at the joint to reduce friction. A protective oily substance called synovial fluid is also in the joint to ease movement. When these break down, the bones rub together with movement, causing pain and possibly more damage.

Risk for osteoarthritis increases with age, certain genetics, obesity and history of past injury. In addition, repetitive movements from certain occupations and sports can cause osteoarthritis to occur. Typical symptoms are joint stiffness, difficulty moving, joint creaking or cracking, and pain relieved with rest. It is typically diagnosed with an x-ray.

A therapist can develop an individualized exercise program and address the risk factors to help relieve your symptoms and slow the progression of osteoarthritis. The therapist may use hands-on therapy to improve movement of the affected joint. Suggestions can be made to adjust your work area or regular activities to lessen strain on joints. Assessments and training in adaptive equipment such as canes or a brace can help to relieve joint strain as well. A therapist will also improve your muscle strength to support the inflamed joint.


The following Lutheran SeniorLife locations offer outpatient rehabilitation that may be helpful to you:

Passavant Community (724) 452-3492

St. John Specialty Care Center (724) 625-4849

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