Osteoarthritis And Your Joint Health

This disease affects 27 million Americans. We explain the basics of this disease, and what you can do to improve your lifestyle if you have osteoarthritis.


When our joints are healthy, we tackle the daily tasks of life with ease. For the 27 million Americans with osteoarthritis, ease of movement is something no longer taken for granted. Activities like opening jars, playing sports, and even taking an evening stroll become discouraging as affected joints become painful to use.

Many believe that this crippling disease is an inevitable part of aging, but this is not true. Over the last 15 years we’ve learned a great deal about how bones work, grow, rebuild, weaken and break—and about what we can do to maintain our joint health as we age.

Osteoarthritis is a disease characterized by the breakdown of the joint cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones. As the cartilage deteriorates, bone begins to rub against bone, making movement painful. This disease can also damage ligaments and muscles. It occurs most often in knees, hips, and hands, although shoulders can also be affected.

There are two types of osteoarthritis: primary and secondary.

Primary osteoarthritis is generally associated with the wear and tear of aging, although it is not part of the normal aging process. Osteoarthritis is a disease, and the older you are, the more likely you are to have it.

Secondary osteoarthritis develops early in life, and is usually triggered by a specific cause that could include an injury or obesity.

Today, there are more treatments than ever before to help people with osteoarthritis. Physical or occupational therapists can teach patients exercises to protect their joints, reduce discomfort, and increase mobility through range of motion exercises, muscle strengthening, and better endurance and balance. In future blogs, we’ll be exploring the causes of osteoarthritis, as well as steps you can take to improve quality of life with this disease.

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  • Andrew Thomas MD

    Andrew Thomas, M.D.

    “I am continually amazed by the mixture of strength, elegance, and humanity that come together in my patients’ hands and feel fortunate to be able to play a role in helping them when they encounter disease or injury as they seek
    to return to strength and function.”

    More about this expert

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