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Athletic Trainers

Understanding Osteoarthritis

27 Feb 2024 0 Comments

Millions of people worldwide associate "osteoarthritis" with stiffness and pain—a condition that lowers quality of life. This blog post goes into the specifics of osteoarthritis, highlighting management options and the role of orthopedic braces as a support. The road toward comprehensively understanding, controlling, and supporting osteoarthritis begins now, offering solutions to people dealing with this condition.

What is Osteoarthritis?

The most prevalent chronic disorder affecting the joints is osteoarthritis (OA), also referred to as degenerative joint disease. The hallmark of osteoarthritis (OA) is the degeneration of joint cartilage and underlying bone, which results in pain and stiffness, primarily in the knees, hips, lower back, neck, and hands. OA can affect young adults (post-injury) as well as an increasing number of older individuals (age-related).

Unlike other types of arthritis induced by systemic inflammation, osteoarthritis is characterized by wear and tear on the smooth cartilage layer between the bones. This cartilage deteriorates and the protective gap in the bone shrinks as osteoarthritis worsens, resulting in painful bone-on-bone contact, inflammation, and the development of bony growths called osteophytes.

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

 Recognizing the symptoms of osteoarthritis is critical for early management. Common indicators include:

  • Joint pain during or after movement.
  • Joint stiffness, particularly after inactivity or upon waking.
  • Decreased range of motion.
  • Swelling or tenderness in the joints.
  • Audible clicking or cracking sound on joint movement. 

Causes and Risk Factors 

Numerous factors can contribute to the beginning of osteoarthritis, including weight, genetics, sports, job hazards, aging, and past injuries.

Managing Osteoarthritis: The Holistic Approach

  1. Lifestyle Modifications: Engaging in regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, and eating a balanced diet rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids can slow the condition's progression and manage symptoms. 
  1. Physical Therapy and Exercise: The key to managing osteoarthritis (OA) is to perform targeted workouts that target the muscles surrounding the afflicted joints, increase flexibility, and lessen discomfort. Additionally, therapists may use methods like electrical nerve stimulation, heat and cold therapy, or ultrasonography.
  1. Pain Management Techniques: These include over-the-counter pain relievers, anti-inflammatory drugs, or cortisone injections. However, these methods should be used under professional supervision due to potential side effects. 
  1. Surgical Treatments: For severe cases, surgical interventions like joint replacement or arthroscopic surgery might be necessary. These procedures can relieve pain and improve joint functionality.
  1. Alternative Therapies: Some individuals find relief through acupuncture, nutritional supplements, or mind-body therapies, emphasizing a comprehensive approach.

The Integral Role of Orthopedic Bracing in Managing Osteoarthritis 

Orthopedic braces are a vital tool for controlling joint function and mobility and minimizing discomfort. These medical devices are made to protect and support osteoarthritis-affected joints, improving function and quality of life.

Benefits of Orthopedic Bracing

  1. Stability and Alignment: Knee braces, for instance, help align the knee, redistributing weight and providing stability, especially useful in cases where osteoarthritis affects one side of the knee more than the other.
  1. Decreased Pain and Swelling: By compressing the affected area, braces help reduce swelling and inflammation, offering pain relief post-activity.
  1. Preventive Care: Braces safeguard against injuries by restricting movements that might exacerbate joint issues, especially during physical activities.
  1. Enhanced Mobility: With the support and stability braces provide, many individuals find it easier to maintain an active lifestyle, crucial for overall health and well-being. 
  1. Delaying Surgery: Consistent use of orthopedic braces, combined with other non-invasive treatments, can prolong or sometimes eliminate the need for surgical intervention.

Selecting the Right Brace for Osteoarthritis

The brace should be chosen with the help of a healthcare practitioner and should be based on the affected joint, the intensity of symptoms, and individual lifestyle needs. The following are typical styles of braces for osteoarthritis. 

  1. Knee Braces: Unloader knee braces are ideal for osteoarthritis, as they take the pressure off the most damaged part of the knee, while support braces offer compression and support for mild knee pain.
  1. Hand and Wrist Braces: These braces provide support for the thumb and fingers, reduce strain on the joints, and help manage daily tasks with ease.
  1. Back Braces: For those with osteoarthritis in the spine, back braces help improve posture and provide the necessary support, significantly reducing pain.
  1. Ankle Braces: Ankle braces stabilize the joint, offer compression, and reduce the range of motion, minimizing pain during movement.
  1. Neck Braces: These are used for cervical osteoarthritis to provide support, limit motion, and alleviate pressure on the cervical spine. 

Conclusion: Embracing an Active Future

While osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition, the right management strategy, including the use of orthopedic braces, can improve one's comfort, mobility, and general quality of life. People with osteoarthritis can keep leading active, meaningful lives by incorporating these treatment options into their daily care regimen.

Here at New Options Sports, we offer an assortment of robust orthopedic braces that are engineered to provide comfort and support to individuals coping with the challenges of osteoarthritis. To learn more about how we may help you live a better, more active lifestyle in spite of osteoarthritis, visit our online store. Remember that with the correct support, your joints can become partners rather than barriers in your daily life.

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