OSTEOARTHRITIS (DEGENERATIVE JOINT DISEASE)
Degenerative joint disease, or osteoarthritis, is a very common disease. In fact, the prevalence of OA increases with age, and the disease is almost universal in people 65 years and older. Essentially, OA is a wearing down of the cartilage in joints. It can occur in one joint or many. Common sites include the hands, cervical spine, lumbar spine, hips, knees, ankles, and feet. Symptoms include progressively increasing joint pain, stiffness, and limited motion. Osteoarthritis may be caused by genetic or inherited factors, especially in the distal finger joints where joint enlargement and nodules can occur. Other causes include environmental factors such as old injuries, repeated traumas or stress from work, inflammation, and endocrine and metabolic diseases. Obesity is also a common cause. Treatment often includes anti-inflammatory medicines. These can be presciption or over-the-counter medications. Additionally, occupational therapy can help provide pain relief and improve function. An occupational therapist can fabricate splints for the hands which can decrease pain, teach about joint protection techniques to prevent pain, and help develop adaptive techniques and equipment to decrease pain and maximize function. With so many people having experienced the painful and disabling effects of osteoarthritis, there are many successful treatments, including occupational therapy, worth exploring.
Published Janurary 2013
Written by Flint Stearns OTR/L