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People with osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis, often have joint pain and reduced motion. Unlike some other forms of arthritis, osteoarthritis affects only joints and not internal organs.

Osteoarthritis is a joint disease that mostly affects cartilage, the slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones in a joint. Healthy cartilage allows bones to glide over each other, helping to absorb shock of movement. In osteoarthritis, the top layer of cartilage breaks down and wears away. This allows bones under the cartilage to rub together causing pain, swelling, and loss of motion of the joint. Over time, the joint may lose its normal shape. Also, bone spurs may grow on the edges of the joint. Bits of bone or cartilage can break off and float inside the joint space, which cause more pain and damage.

Although the exact causes of osteoarthritis are unknown, there are factors that might cause it including: being overweight, getting older, joint injury, joints that are not properly formed, a genetic defect in joint cartilage, or stresses on the joints from certain jobs and playing sports.

Often times there are warning signs of osteoarthritis. It can occur in any joint, but most often occurs in the hands, knees, and spine. Stiffness in a joint after getting out of bed or sitting for a long period of time is one such warning sign. Others include, swelling or tenderness in one or more joints and a crunching feeling or sound of bone rubbing bone.

While no single test can diagnose osteoarthritis, most doctors use several standard methods to diagnose and rule out other problems. Along with a complete medical history and a physical exam, x-rays or blood tests may be taken to examine the fluid in the joints. Treatment plans involve exercise, weight control, rest and joint care, non-drug pain relief techniques to control pain, medicines, complementary and alternative therapies and in more extreme cases surgery may be an option.