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Conditions InDepth: Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the wearing down of structures in a joint. This leads to pain and stiffness. It can happen to any joint. It is most common in the knees, hips, spine, and hands.

Cartilage is a smooth tissue that covers bone surfaces inside the joint. It lets bones move smoothly over each other. The breakdown causes rough areas of the joint. This causes pain with movement. All the cartilage may wear away. This leaves the bone bare. It makes moving hard and painful. Over time, this can lead to extra stress and damage to other parts of the joint.

OA is a degenerative joint disease. This means it worsens over time. It is more common in women and older adults. OA is different from person to person. Problems vary from mild to severe.

Joints Affected by Osteoarthritis

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Causes

OA is often the result of wear and tear on joints over time. Things that can increase stress on joints and the amount of wear and tear are:

  • Prior injury to the joint
  • Bones that are not in line
  • Certain sports, such as running
  • Jobs with a lot of:
    • Standing, lifting, and moving heavy objects (hip OA)
    • Kneeling, squatting, walking, and moving heavy objects (knee OA)
  • Obesity
  • Repetitive movements

Genes and the environment may also play a role. In some people, the cause of OA is not known.

REFERENCES:

Abramoff B, Caldera FE. Osteoarthritis. Med Clin North Am. 2020; 104(2):293-311.

Osteoarthritis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/osteoarthritis. Accessed August 24, 2021.

Osteoarthritis (OA) of the hip. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/osteoarthritis-oa-of-the-hip. Accessed August 24, 2021.

Osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/osteoarthritis-oa-of-the-knee. Accessed August 24, 2021.

Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Laura Lei-Rivera, PT, DPT  Last Updated: 8/24/2021