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A patient holds her left knee with her hands and complains of pain in that knee at a doctor's appointment

Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative arthritis is the most common type of arthritis among adults and is the leading cause of disability in the United States. It affects more than 27 million people in this country. It is estimated that by the age of 65, 80% of Americans will have evidence of osteoarthritis of the knee on x-rays and 60% will have symptomatic osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis most commonly affects the weight-bearing joints including the hips, knees, and ankles, but can also affect the hands, spine and feet. It results due to a loss of articular cartilage, which is the lining of the joints. Without this lining, there is a loss of the normal lubrication and cushioning of the joint causing pain upon activity. Oftentimes, there is also a formation of abnormal bone along the joint margin called osteophytes or “spurs” which can be detected on x-rays. These are tell-tale signs of degeneration of your joint.

A definite correlation between osteoarthritis and total body fat content has also been found. Numerous studies have shown that reducing weight as well as body fat results in decreased pain associated with osteoarthritis. If thought to be a cause, your rheumatologist may discuss this with you at your appointment.

Common Symptoms of OA

  • Pain, stiffness of the joint

  • Joint swelling

  • Reduced grip strength and inability to hold objects

  • Knee pain and/or swelling

  • Back pain and stiffness

  • Bony enlargement of the finger joints

  • Pain is typically worse with activity


  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)

  • NSAIDSs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories)

  • Lifestyle modification (weight loss and exercise)

  • Dietary modification

  • Intra-articular steroid injections

  • Hyaluronic acid injections

  • Physical therapy

  •  Topical anti-inflammatories

  • Joint replacement

Once conservative measures have failed, the next step is typically injections of steroid or hyaluronic acid within the joint space. These are done with the use of ultrasound to visualize the needle entering the joint to minimize pain/discomfort as well as maximize efficacy of the medication by ensuring proper placement of the needle. Make sure your rheumatologist or orthopedist uses ultrasound to deliver any joint injections.

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