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People usually have hip and knee health issues because their joints have been damaged by arthritis, a disease that mostly affects older people. The word arthritis means inflammation or swelling of the joint. Many people think of arthritis as a single disease. There are over 100 types of arthritis. The most common type of hip and knee arthritis is Osteoarthritis (OA). It is a common problem for many people, especially after middle age. To read more about Osteoarthritis, visit the Arthritis Society of Nova Scotia website

OA is a disease that results from the breakdown of cartilage in the joint. Cartilage is the hard, white tissue that caps the ends of your bones. It acts as a shock absorber for your joint. Each time you move, it softens the impact and lets your bones glide smoothly over each other.

With OA, the cartilage begins to wear away, and even wear out, causing your bones to rub directly against each other. This makes it hurt to move your joint. In some cases, little bumps, or bone spurs, will grow on the ends of the bone.

Osteoarthritis gets worse over time and it can affect any joint. Often called the “wear and tear” arthritis, it usually hits the joints that carry your bodyweight – like the lower back, feet, hips, and knees.

Did you know?

  • Osteoarthritis affects about 1 in 10 Canadians.
  • Most Canadians will have osteoarthritis in at least one joint by age 65.
  • Osteoarthritis affects women and men almost equally.
  • Osteoarthritis is a leading cause of long-term disability.
  • The economic cost of arthritis is $4.4 billion a year, making it the second most “expensive” disease in Canada.
  • Osteoarthritis has been around for thousands of years. Dinosaur bones and ice-age skeletons even had it!
  • Good news! There are ways to slow down the disease.

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Signs and Symptoms

For some people, osteoarthritis starts as a constant achy feeling in their joint. Others will feel pain when they put weight on their joint. Some of the simplest movements can cause the most pain, like walking, climbing stairs, sitting down, or getting up out of a chair.

You should talk to your doctor if you have any of these symptoms:

  • An achy feeling in your joints after or during exercise 
  • Pain, stiffness, swelling, or less flexibility in your joints
  • Cracking or crunching when you move your joints
  • Stiffness in your joints for more than a half-hour after you get out of bed in the morning

Risk Factors 

There are no known causes for osteoarthritis, but researchers have made a list of risk factors known to increase your chances of developing the disease.

Age: While osteoarthritis is not caused by aging, your chances of getting the disease increase as you get older.

Obesity: Having too much weight puts unnecessary strain on your hip and knee joints.

Other types of arthritis: Other joint diseases (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis) can damage joints, leaving them at risk for developing osteoarthritis

Hereditary: The way your joints fit together at birth may determine whether or not you develop osteoarthritis later in life.

Injury and Repetitive Strain: Old injuries or a lifetime of activities like heavy lifting, kneeling, or squatting can leave lasting damage.

Stages of the Disease

People at different stages of osteoarthritis will face different challenges and have different needs. The stages can be broken down into three categories: 1) early, 2) advanced, and 3) end stage osteoarthritis.

In the early stage of the disease you are probably still able to move around freely, but you may feel an ache when you climb stairs or sit down. You may also be a little stiff when you get out of bed in the morning.

If you are in the advanced stage you may feel pain even when you are resting, and you may not be able to put much weight on your joint.

When you are in the advanced and/or end stages, surgery may be helpful, particularly if your joint is damaged, if you are having trouble moving your joint, or if you are in extreme pain.

If you are newly diagnosed with arthritis you may wish to visit the Arthritis Society’s website to read the Just Diagnosed Toolkit . If you have had arthritis for some years, read about self managing your arthritis on an ongoing basis.

Not all people are limited to one category, and not all people will end up having surgery. For most people, you make a decision based on your health history and personal choice. Talk to your doctor about how you can start to manage your own condition. For more information on arthritis and osteoarthritis visit the  Arthritis Society of Nova Scotia website.