Nearly 33 million Americans suffer from the aches, pains, and stiffness of osteoarthritis (OA), according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, making it — by far — the most common type of arthritis. By comparison, the second main type of arthritis — rheumatoid arthritis — affects under 2 million people.
But although OA is common, many people don’t know why it happens, what symptoms to look for, or how it’s treated. Understanding the basics of osteoarthritis can help you figure out ways to prevent or slow its progression, and it can also help you decide when it’s time to visit our office for help.
Zaid Malik, MD, and our team at Superior Pain Relief offer comprehensive, patient-centered treatment for osteoarthritis at their offices in Spring, Houston, Baytown, Willis, and The Woodlands, Texas, including both medical intervention and patient education. Here, we offer a quick overview of OA and the treatment options that can help you feel better.
Joints exist where two or more bones meet. The ends of the bones are protected by a thick layer of slick cartilage that protects the bone tissue while also allowing the joints to move freely, without pain or stiffness.
Osteoarthritis develops when your joint surfaces are damaged and the protective layer of cartilage starts to wear away. A progressive disease, continued destruction of the joint surface eventually leads to inflammation inside the joint, along with painful symptoms like joint pain and stiffness.
Because it involves wear-and-tear inside your joints, osteoarthritis typically happens when you’re older and years of joint movement take their toll. But it can also occur in younger people who use their joints a lot, like athletes and people with occupations that require a lot of bending, lifting, and similar activities for their jobs.
Many people think of arthritis in terms of the larger weight-bearing joints, like your knees and hips, but it can happen in any joint — even the joints in your back. In addition to older age and physical activity, other factors that contribute to your risk of OA include:
Dr. Malik reviews your symptoms, your medical history, and your personal risk factors to develop a treatment plan that’s focused on relieving your pain and slowing the progression of joint damage.
Osteoarthritis symptoms vary in severity, and, as with other chronic and progressive medical problems, it responds best to early, individualized treatment. As a pain management specialist, Dr. Malik offers various treatments that can be used alone or in combination to achieve maximum pain relief.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines, like ibuprofen and aspirin, can provide some relief from both inflammation and the pain it causes. While these medicines can be helpful, it’s important to take them as prescribed and for a limited period of time.
Physical therapy focuses on exercises to keep your joints mobile. Joints contain special lubricating fluid that keeps them healthy, and regular movement keeps that fluid evenly distributed. Physical therapy can also strengthen muscles that support joints, reducing strain on the joint surfaces.
Dr. Malik offers injections to help reduce inflammation, relieve pain, and promote natural healing inside the joint. He often combines injections with physical therapy to make the physical work more comfortable and effective.
Other injections use different medicines to block nerve pathways that are involved in pain signaling. These injections can be used on their own, but they’re also often combined with physical therapy.
Radiofrequency ablation uses focused beams of energy to harmlessly penetrate the skin in order to precisely heat the nerves associated with your pain. The RF heat destroys the nerve endings, preventing pain signals from being transmitted to your brain.
Osteoarthritis is a common cause of pain, but that doesn’t mean that it’s OK to ignore it or that it’s a normal part of aging. In fact, OA is a sign that your body needs some medical help. With the right treatment, you can feel better and enjoy a more active lifestyle again.
To learn more about osteoarthritis and how we can help you find symptom relief, book an appointment online or over the phone with Dr. Malik and the team at Superior Pain Relief.