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All About Osteoarthritis

Thursday 13 August 2020
5 minute(s) read

Table of Contents

I. The Wear and Tear Arthritis

II. 4 Stages of Osteoarthritis

III. Risk Factors

IV. Complications

V. Diagnosis and Treatment

The Wear and Tear Arthritis

The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis (OA). As our bodies age, the joints in our bodies begin to break down, and arthritic symptoms may occur. Over 32 million people in the United States have osteoarthritis. [1] The most likely places for cartilage to break down are the hands, hips, and knees. When the cartilage deteriorates, pain in the joints begins to occur. Over time, this can lead to reduced function and sometimes disability. Luckily, there are medications like Cymbalta (duloxetine) to help with symptoms.

Many people consider achy feelings in their joints as a natural part of aging, but this is not necessarily the case. Your joints should not feel permanently achy, and medical attention should be sought if your symptoms begin to interfere with your daily activities. [1] Symptoms of osteoarthritis include:

Bone Spurs: Hard lumps of bone can begin to form around an arthritis-affected joint. This can further inhibit the function of the joint.

Grating against bone: When using a joint, you may feel a grating sensation. Popping or creaking noises may also come from the joint. 

Swelling: The tissues around an arthritic joint can become inflamed and cause redness and swelling.

a diagram displaying osteoarthritis

Pain and stiffness: Many people notice stiffness in their joints when they wake up in the morning. Pain may accompany this stiffness.

Loss of Flexibility: When the cartilage deteriorates, the stiffness may affect your ability to move that joint, leading to a loss of flexibility. [2]

4 Stages of Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis does not occur overnight. Over several years, the functionality of a joint can begin to decrease. Joints are assigned stages 0 to 4, 0 being a healthy joint, and 4 signifying advanced OA.

Stage 1: This stage is minor, and patients will rarely feel much pain. A doctor will likely leave your symptoms alone until they become more severe. Certain exercises or supplements may be prescribed to help put off further cartilage loss.

Stage 2: Mild symptoms begin to present themselves in this stage. Bone spur growth and cartilage deterioration become present in x-rays. If you stay inactive for long periods, the affected joint or joints may begin to feel stiff and uncomfortable. A fitted brace or more intense exercise routine may become necessary. [3]

Stage 3: Moderate osteoarthritis comes with more painful symptoms of the joint. At this point, areas in the joint will begin to erode, and the space between the bone and joint becomes smaller and smaller. Your doctor may prescribe stronger pain medications at this point.

Stage 4: Severe OA is the most painful stage of this condition. The cartilage in a joint is nearly gone at stage 4. When the cartilage is gone, the body has an inflammatory response and leads to swelling and redness. Bone spurs have multiplied rapidly at this stage and cause excruciating pain. In stage 4, your doctor may recommend certain bone realignment surgeries or full joint replacements. [3]

Risk Factors

Wear and tear arthritis can be caused by several things. Activities throughout a person’s life can lead to a degeneration of the joint cartilage. In most cases, older age is the main cause of this arthritis. As people age, their bodies begin to break down, and joint changes can begin to occur. Women are also more likely to get osteoarthritis, but researchers are unsure why.

Being obese can also increase your risk. The more weight you put on your bones, the more stress is put on your joints. The joints most affected by obesity are the hips and knees. Excess fat tissue deposits can also cause inflammation in and around the joints, leading to painful symptoms.

an insulin pump

Bone deformity or joint injury can also lead to OA. If you repeatedly place stress on the joint due to sports or other activities, you may develop osteoarthritis. Genetics and certain diseases can also increase your risk. Osteoarthritis can be inherited or may occur due to other conditions like diabetes and hemochromatosis (excess iron in the body). [2]


Losing the mobility of the joints can have a significant impact on your everyday life. Several complications can occur if the joints are not treated properly when osteoarthritis begins to take hold. Trips and falls are much more common if the joints are injured, which can lead to more severe injuries. Complications of osteoarthritis can also include:

  • Chondrolysis: This is a complete breakdown of joint cartilage, which leads to loose tissue material in the joint.
  • Osteonecrosis: This condition is also known as bone death. It may require surgery to remove the affected part of the bone.
  • Infection or bleeding inside the joint may occur.
  • Rupture of tendons or ligaments may occur around the joint.
  • Gout: The level of uric acid in the blood may increase with osteoarthritis, leading to gout.
  • Pinched nerve: Pinched nerves in the spine can occur with osteoarthritis.
  • Pain Management: Osteoarthritis can lead to chronic pain, which can affect your quality of life. You will likely require fitted boots and shoes to make movement easier. [4]

a bandage on a knee

Diagnosis and Treatment

Severe aches and pain may lead you to seek the advice of a doctor. Several lab tests can help diagnose OA. A joint aspiration may be performed to rule out any other conditions. This test involves numbing the potentially arthritic area and inserting a needle into the joint to draw out the fluid. This fluid will be examined for uric acid crystals or infection. X-rays can also determine joint damage, and an MRI can give a better view of the cartilage.

Several medications can help treat osteoarthritis pain as well as prevent further joint damage. NSAIDs and corticosteroids are anti-inflammatory medications that can help control joint pain. Some of these drugs are available over the counter, but your doctor may prescribe higher doses. Cymbalta (duloxetine) is an antidepressant drug that has been approved to treat osteoarthritis pain. Cymbalta decreases pain signals in the brain, spinal cord, and nerves, which can significantly reduce arthritis pain. Your treatment plan depends on the severity of your osteoarthritis. Talk to your doctor to determine the right medications for you. [5]

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.