Questions About Osteoarthritis

Frequently asked questions about osteoarthritis.

  1. What is osteoarthritis?
  2. Who has osteoarthritis?
  3. What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis?
  4. What causes osteoarthritis?
  5. What areas does osteoarthritis affect?
  6. How is osteoarthritis diagnosed?
  7. How is osteoarthritis treated?
  8. What is the typical outcome for an individual with osteoarthritis?
  9. Does my insurance pay for these treatments?
  10. How long does it take until I feel better?
  11. Who will I see when I come to an OA accredited Center?

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, is the most common type of arthritis. In osteoarthritis, the surface layer of cartilage breaks down and wears away. This allows the bones under the cartilage to rub together resulting in pain, swelling, and loss of motion of the joint. Although in some people it progresses quickly, in most individuals joint damage develops gradually over years.

Who has osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is most common in older people. However, younger people can also develop the disease, typically as a result of a joint injury, a joint malformation, or a genetic defect in the joint cartilage. It is also more likely to occur in people who are overweight and those with jobs that stress particular joints.

An estimated 12.1 percent (21 million Americans) of the U.S. population age 25 and older have osteoarthritis.

What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis?

Individuals with osteoarthritis typically experience joint pain, stiffness, and some movement limitations. Warning signs include:

  • Stiffness in a joint after getting our of bed or sitting for a long time.
  • Swelling or tenderness in one or more joints.
  • A crunching, grinding, or popping sensation which occurs during movement.

What causes osteoarthritis?

The cause of osteoarthritis is unknown. Factors that might cause it include the following:

  • Being overweight
  • Getting Older (wear and tear)
  • Joint Injury
  • Joints that are not properly formed (alignment/imbalance problems)
  • A genetic defect in the joint cartilage
  • Stresses on the joints from certain activities including sports, work and leisure activities

What areas does osteoarthritis affect?

Osteoarthritis most often occurs in the following areas:

  • Hands - fingers, thumbs, and wrist joints (often made worse by high stress or repetitive actions)
  • Spine - in the neck and lower back
  • Knees
  • Hips
  • Shoulders

How is osteoarthritis diagnosed?

There is not a single test that can diagnose osteoarthritis. A doctor may use several methods to diagnose the disease and rule out other problems. Some of these methods include:

  • Medical history
  • Physical exam
  • X-rays
  • MRI
  • Blood tests and related lab work to rule out other conditions

How is osteoarthritis treated?

The treatment of osteoarthritis has four main goals.

  1. Improve joint function (restoring motion and function)
  2. Keep a healthy body weight
  3. Control pain
  4. Achieve a healthy lifestyle

Typically treatments can be combined to fit a patient's needs, lifestyle, and health. Treatment plans typically involve:

  • Exercise
  • Weight control
  • Rest and joint care
  • Nondrug pain relief techniques to control pain
  • Medicines
  • Complementary and alternative therapies
  • Surgery/Joint Replacement

What is the typical outcome for an individual with osteoarthritis?

Most people with osteoarthritis live active, productive lives despite the disease. They do so by using treatment strategies such as rest and exercise, pain relief medications, education and support programs, learning self-care, and having a "good attitude."

Does my insurance pay for these treatments?

Yes, most major insurances and Medicare will pay for some if not all of our services. Please contact us so that we can help you explore your insurances coverage of these services.

How long does it take until I feel better?

Each treatment plan will be different based on the individual and the severity of symptoms. Most treatments will last anywhere from 6 – 8 weeks including physical therapy.

Who will I see when I come to an OA accredited Center?

Each patient will meet with the affiliated provider’s Physician or Physical therapist, usually both. Individuals will be evaluated for the conditions and complaints that they have. All treatment plans are developed by the affiliated provider’s physicians and licensed therapists, with a focus on a customized approach to each patients’ specific problems.

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