What is osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis that is caused by the breakdown and eventual loss of the cartilage of one or more joints.
Osteoarthritis commonly affects the hands, feet, spine, and large weight-bearing joints, such as the hips and knees. Most cases of osteoarthritis have no known cause and are referred to as primary osteoarthritis. When the cause of the osteoarthritis is known, the condition is referred to as secondary osteoarthritis.
What causes osteoarthritis?
Primary osteoarthritis is mostly related to aging. With aging, the water content of the cartilage increases and the protein makeup of cartilage degenerates. Repetitive use of the joints over the years irritates and inflames the cartilage, causing joint pain and swelling. Eventually, cartilage begins to degenerate by flaking or forming tiny crevasses. In advanced cases, there is a total loss of the cartilage cushion between the bones of the joints. Loss of cartilage cushion causes friction between the bones, leading to pain and limitation of joint mobility. Inflammation of the cartilage can also stimulate new bone outgrowths (spurs) to form around the joints. Osteoarthritis occasionally can be found in multiple members of the same family, implying an heredity (genetic) basis for this condition.
What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a disease of the joints. Unlike many other forms of arthritis that are systemic illnesses, such as rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus, osteoarthritis does not affect other organs of the body. The most common symptom of osteoarthritis is pain in the affected joint(s) after repetitive use. Joint pain is usually worse later in the day. There can be swelling, warmth, and creaking of the affected joints. Pain and stiffness of the joints can also occur after long periods of inactivity, for example, sitting in a theater. In severe osteoarthritis, complete loss of cartilage cushion causes friction between bones, causing pain at rest or pain with limited motion.
Symptoms of osteoarthritis vary greatly from patient to patient. Some patients can be debilitated by their symptoms. On the other hand, others may have remarkably few symptoms in spite of dramatic degeneration of the joints apparent on x-rays. Symptoms also can be intermittent. It is not unusual for patients with osteoarthritis of the hands and knees to have years of pain-free intervals between symptoms.
Osteoarthritis of the knees is often associated with obesity or a history of repeated injury and/or joint surgery. Progressive cartilage degeneration of the knee joints can lead to deformity and outward curvature of the knees referred to as "bow legged." Patients with osteoarthritis of the weight bearing joints (like the knees) can develop a limp. The limping can worsen as more cartilage degenerates. In some patients, the pain, limping, and joint dysfunction may not respond to medications or other conservative measures. Therefore, severe osteoarthritis of the knees is one of the most common reasons for total knee replacement surgical procedures in the United States.
Osteoarthritis of the spine causes pain in the neck or low back. Bony spurs that form along the arthritic spine can irritate spinal nerves, causing severe pain, numbness, and tingling of the affected parts of the body.
Osteoarthritis causes the formation of hard bony enlargements of the small joints of the fingers. Classic bony enlargement of the small joint at the end of the fingers is called a Heberden's node, named after a very famous British doctor. The bony deformity is a result of the bone spurs from the osteoarthritis in that joint. Another common bony knob (node) occurs at the middle joint of the fingers in many patients with osteoarthritis and is called a Bouchard's node. Dr. Bouchard was a famous French doctor who also studied arthritis patients in the late 1800s. The Heberden's and Bouchard's nodes may not be painful, but they are often associated with limitation of motion of the joint. The characteristic appearances of these finger nodes can be helpful in diagnosing osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis of the joint at the base of the big toes leads to the formation of a bunion. Osteoarthritis of the fingers and the toes may have a genetic basis, and can be found in numerous women members of some families.
What are the treatments for osteoarthritis?
The goal of treatment in
osteoarthritis is to reduce joint pain and inflammation while improving and
maintaining joint function.
The combination of acupuncture, massage and Chinese medicinal hers are very helpful in reducing the inflammation and swelling, improving the circulation and decrease the pain. Osteoarthritis can be significantly aggravated if there is active inflammation in the joints. Especially the microbleeding in the affected joint(s) can provoke new capillary formation which further damage the cartilage.
Dr. Wang has successfully treated lots of osteoarthritis patients. He has helped relieve their joint pain and restore joint functions. He believes that osteoarthritis is caused by the deficiency of kidney and liver Yin in combination of the blockage (congestion and stagnation) of blood flow. By means of acupuncture and massage, the joint function can be improved and the cartilage damage can be minimized.