Arthrosis of the joints (osteoarthritis): causes, symptoms and treatment

Experts note that arthrosis is one of the most common diseases of the musculoskeletal system. This ailment has an extremely negative effect on the quality of life and, without treatment, leads to disability. However, arthrosis of the joints is not a sentence at all – competent therapy will significantly slow down the degenerative processes in the joints, and surgical treatment will make it possible to move freely again.

What is arthrosis?

Arthrosis is a degenerative-dystrophic disease of the joints (also called osteoarthritis). The disease affects the cartilaginous tissue of the joints – with arthrosis, it becomes thinner and gradually collapses. According to statistics, every 10th person on earth suffers from arthrosis. This disease can affect all joints of our body, however, arthrosis of the knee and hip joints (gonarthrosis and coxarthrosis) is most often diagnosed.

Causes of arthrosis

It is generally accepted that arthrosis is a disease of the elderly. Indeed, most often arthrosis develops due to age-related changes in the joints, however, other reasons can also provoke the destruction of cartilage tissue. Therefore, arthrosis at a young age also meets quite often. Arthrosis can be a consequence of:

  • Injuries and injuries to joints (post-traumatic arthrosis)
  • Diseases – arthritis, inflammatory and infectious diseases, thyroid diseases, etc.
  • Hypothermia
  • Excessive stress on the joint (hard physical labor)
  • Metabolic disorders and excess weight

Arthrosis: symptoms and signs

The first signs of arthrosis are joint pain. At first, this is a slight discomfort in the joint, but as the disease progresses, the discomfort intensifies. If in the early stages of arthrosis joint pain can appear after significant physical exertion, then in later stages the joint hurts even at rest.

With arthrosis, the cartilaginous tissue is destroyed, during movement the bones touch, therefore there is a crunch, crackle in the joint. Also, more and more often the joint “fetters”, the movements must be done through force. Usually this sensation occurs after waking up, but it is worth moving for some time, and the range of motion is restored.

When the joint is completely destroyed, it deforms, changes shape (deforming ostearthrosis). Because of this, the limb affected by the disease becomes shorter. The patient has difficulty walking, he has problems with the spine.

Types of arthrosis

Joint arthrosis is classified according to several criteria. Depending on the degree of arthritic changes in the cartilage tissue, 4 stages of arthrosis are distinguished. Also, arthrosis is divided into primary and secondary. Age-related changes become the cause of the development of primary arthrosis. Secondary arthrosis occurs due to injuries and diseases of the joints (for example, traumatic arthrosis or rheumatoid arthrosis). The disease can also develop slowly over the years or in just a few years lead to joint destruction (progressive arthrosis).

There are also types of arthrosis, depending on the affected area:

  • Gonarthrosis – arthrosis of the knee joint
  • Coxarthrosis – arthrosis of the hip joint
  • Uncovertebral arthrosis – arthrosis of the cervical vertebrae
  • Vertebral arthrosis – damage to the spine
  • Patellofemoral arthrosis is a type of gonarthrosis in which the patella and part of the femur are affected.

Stages of arthrosis

The peculiarities of arthrosis are that this ailment affects the joint gradually. Depending on the changes that occur in the cartilage tissue, 4 degrees of arthrosis of the joint are distinguished.

Arthrosis of the 1st degree is the initial stage of arthrosis. At this stage, the disease almost does not manifest itself, and many patients are not even aware of the presence of the disease.

Arthrosis of the 2nd degree – arthrosis is gradually making itself felt. The patient is worried about slight pain in the joints, he hears a crunch and feels a little stiffness of movements

Arthrosis of the 3rd degree – the symptoms of arthrosis intensify, and the destruction of cartilage progresses. Pain, limitation of movement, lameness are constant companions of a patient with arthrosis of the joints. It is difficult for him to move independently, work, lead a usual lifestyle

Arthrosis of the 4th degree is an advanced stage of arthrosis of the joints, when the articular cartilage is completely destroyed. In such a situation, one cannot do without replacing the joints.

Diagnosis of arthrosis of the joints

Arthrosis of the joints is detected using X-ray. An x-ray shows how deformed the joint is and how much the joint space narrows. You may also need to undergo an MRI or arthroscopy, but only in particularly difficult and ambiguous cases. X-rays of the joints are usually sufficient to diagnose the disease.

Treatment of arthrosis of the joints

When diagnosed with arthrosis, treatment can be conservative (medication and physiotherapy) or surgical. Which will be more effective in each specific case – the specialist selects, taking into account many factors.

Medical treatment of arthrosis

The main goal of such therapy is to remove the manifestations of arthrosis. Medical treatment of arthrosis of the joints includes:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. With arthrosis, a person experiences pain, the joint becomes inflamed. To eliminate unpleasant symptoms and stop inflammation, this group of drugs is prescribed.
  • Hormonal injections into the joint. Corticosteroid drugs are most often administered in the acute stage of arthrosis.
  • Chondroprotectors (chondroitin and glucosamine). The main task of these drugs is to stop degenerative processes in the cartilaginous tissue in order to prevent its further destruction.
  • Intra-articular injections of hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid preparations are similar to synovial fluid, which allows the joint to slide and move freely. With arthrosis, the synovial fluid is not released enough, therefore orthopedists often prescribe injections of hyaluronic acid (injections into the joint with arthrosis).
  • Biological therapy for arthrosis (PRP and cytokine therapy). A new innovative method of treating arthrosis, which has recently entered into practice, but is gaining popularity. This is the use of drugs based on the patient’s blood plasma enriched with platelets. Thanks to biological therapy, the blood supply to the joint is activated, the production of intra-articular fluid is activated, and the cartilage tissue is supplied with nutrients.

Important! Medical treatment of arthrosis is effective in the early stages of the disease. Also, experts emphasize that drug therapy is not able to restore the damaged joint, however, it will make it possible to eliminate the symptoms and slow down the progression of arthrosis.

Physiotherapy and other conservative methods of treating arthrosis

Physiotherapy is also used in the fight against arthrosis. Various procedures are prescribed (laser, phonophoresis, electrophoresis, magnetotherapy, UVT) and exercise therapy to improve metabolic processes and blood circulation, to strengthen muscles.

In addition, with arthrosis, you just need to make some adjustments to your lifestyle:

  • Avoid overloading – it is important to evenly distribute activity and take breaks so as not to overload the joint
  • Take care of nutrition and monitor weight – since excess weight only aggravates the problem with joints, you need to revise your diet and reduce body weight
  • Remember to be careful and avoid injury to the maximum
  • Use additional support for movement – in the later stages of arthrosis, independent movement becomes questionable, so you need to use a cane or crutches. For more comfortable walking, you can also use orthopedic insoles – they will reduce the stress on the joint.

There are also many popular recipes that “will help to defeat arthrosis.” However, the treatment of arthrosis at home also does not always bring results. Moreover, the use of all kinds of homemade lotions and ointments most often only provokes allergic reactions and does not in any way affect the health of the joint.

Surgical treatment of osteoarthritis

How to treat arthrosis if all of the above methods do not bring results? In this case, surgical treatment of osteoarthritis is prescribed. Depending on the degree of joint damage, the individual characteristics of each patient, a type of operation is selected.

Arthroscopy of the joints is a low-traumatic intervention, intra-articular surgery through several micro-punctures in the joint. In arthrosis, it is used as a temporary measure to “clean the joint”: to remove parts of the cartilaginous tissue, osteophyte growths that interfere with free movement. This treatment reduces pain in the joint, but is not a solution to the problem of arthrosis.

Osteotomy is an operation to align the axis of the joint. The fact is that with arthrosis, as a rule, one part of the joint suffers more (it has a large load). As a result of osteotomy, the load on the joint is redistributed. It should be noted that arthrosis is a progressive joint disease. Therefore, osteotomy is a way to delay further treatment, but not to avoid it.

Endoprosthetics of joints is an effective, and in some cases, the only method of treating arthrosis of the joints. The essence of the operation is to remove the joint destroyed by the disease and implant an artificial endoprosthesis in its place. An artificial joint is selected individually, ideally suits each patient and fully replenishes the functions of the damaged joint after a period of rehabilitation.

Contraindications for arthrosis

What you need to pay attention to in case of arthrosis of the joints:

Joint loads – with arthrosis, you need to give up lifting weights, excessive static loads. A cane can be used to relieve the joint. Shoes – properly fitting shoes reduce stress on the joint. It is advisable to give up high-heeled shoes.

Weight – overweight is another factor in the progression of arthrosis. Therefore, it is important to maintain a healthy weight and a balanced diet.

Sports also need to be revisited. With arthrosis, it is necessary to exclude sharp jerky movements (contact sports, wrestling), running for long distances, lifting weights. But this does not mean that physical activity should be stopped altogether. Moderate activity will only benefit the joint.

Prevention of arthrosis includes:

  • Moderate physical activity
  • Protection of joints from hypothermia
  • Treatment of concomitant diseases (compliance with the recommendations of a specialist in rheumatoid arthritis and other pathologies)
  • Healthy Balanced Eating and Weight Control
  • Sufficient rest
  • Timely access to an orthopedist and treatment in case of joint problems


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