Osteoarthritis is a condition that affects cartilage. Cartilage is the rubbery cushion covering bones in the joints, keeping them flexible. Arthritis is a form of disability, but also a natural part of aging. The body is like a machine, and there’s going to be wear and tear as we grow older.
Men typically feel the onset of osteoarthritis earlier in life than women do, but after age 55, more women than men will develop it, and will often have it more severely. Over time, as we age, cartilage begins to stiffen and damages more easily. It then gradually loses its “shock absorber” qualities, and bones start rubbing against each other. That is when the pain begins.
Osteoarthritis and osteoporosis are actually two common pathologies but are two independent and different diseases. While osteoporosis (bone disease) is a demineralization by increasing bone resorption, osteoarthritis is a joint disease.
Is Osteoarthritis More Or Less Common In Women Than Men?
A genetic defect triggering defective cartilage or a joint abnormality can lead to osteoarthritis, and women tend to be plagued by osteoarthritis more than men. Heredity increases the risk in both sexes, and the incidence of osteoarthritis increases with age.
In women, osteoarthritis is rare before the age of 45 years but its incidence increases significantly after the menopause, and it is estimated that osteoarthritis, in particular, osteoarthritis of the hand or knee, is about twice as common in women than in men.
In general, women have osteoarthritis (the most common form of arthritis), at much higher rates than men, and experts estimate that almost 27 million people in the United States have osteoarthritis, of which 60% of them are women.
Before age 55, more men tend to have osteoarthritis, but after age 55 the number of women with the condition tends to increase more than the number of men.
Factors Leading To Osteoarthritis In Women
Magnetic resonance imaging has revealed that the volume of articular cartilage is smaller in women than in men, and this phenomenon seems even more pronounced after the age of 50 years.
Foot deformities, by induced and repeated wearing high-heeled shoes appear to cause a significant risk of knee osteoarthritis.
Flattering high-heeled shoes promote knee osteoarthritis, and alter the normal dynamics of the ankle, leading to increases and changes in the distribution of pressure at the knee during walking.
These phenomena of compensation required to maintain the stability of the knee could promote knee osteoarthritis, which explains why it may be more in women.
Other risk factors include:
- Obesity, which puts extra stress on the knees and hips, and can lead to cartilage breakdown. Being overweight promotes osteoarthritis by increasing the load on the joints of the hip and knee, and obesity is even greater in women than in men.
- A sports injury, severe back injury, or broken bone takes a toll on the joints and may result in osteoarthritis. Pain is the symptom that gets everyone’s attention.
- Some contributing mechanical factors are encountered in specific cultures, and it has notably been shown that frequent and prolonged time spent in a crouching position is a predisposing factor for osteoarthritis of the hip. In North Africa, there has been an increase in knee osteoarthritis, and this difference could be sitting in a cross-legged position which is more common in these regions.
Tips To Restrict Your Osteoarthritis Pain
If you are overweight or obese, you’re putting extra stress on weight-bearing joints, but shedding some pounds will lessen the risk of further joint injury, and also increases your mobility.
Studies have shown that more women than men are obese or severely obese. With every extra pound you gain, you add three pounds of pressure to your knees and six pounds of pressure to your hips and extra weight puts more pressure on joints and can cause the cartilage between joints to wear away faster.
Furthermore, women who have gone through menopause tend to have more belly fat, which also puts more pressure on the lower joints.
Watch Your Diet
Talk to a dietitian to help get you on track with healthy eating habits. Antioxidant and calcium supplements can boost your bone strength, while antioxidant vitamins C and E may also provide bone protection. A healthy diet will also help you lose weight or maintain a healthy one.
Exercise is simply the best treatment for osteoarthritis, as it helps you lose weight, increases flexibility, eases the pain, boosts your mood, strengthens your heart, and improves blood circulation.
Walking or mild jogging, swimming, and water aerobics are good because they are easy on joints. Even if exercise is painful at first, continue with it, and it will get easier with time, and help you in reducing overall pain in the long run. Ensure to talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise or diet plan.
Reasonable adjustments can lessen the strain on joints and muscles and prevent painful sessions. If you have osteoarthritis in your back, make sure it gets good support when you sit, and if you have arthritis in your hip, you can adjust the toilet seat or furniture to a comfortable level.
Get a Relaxing Massage
For the treatment of pain, massage can be rated as highly as medications. In America, one survey showed that one in five adults got a therapeutic massage last year, and three out of four of them would recommend it to others. Massage helps relieve pain by increasing blood flow and warmth in painful areas and helping to calm other tense regions.
Take Drugs In The Approved Manner
Non-prescription painkillers like Tylenol or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Advil can be effective in relieving osteoarthritis pain, but it’s important to take them according to label directions. A lot of patients don’t follow the recommended dosage and say it’s not working.
Some creams, rubs, and sprays applied to the skin can also help relieve osteoarthritis pain and can be used in addition to oral painkillers. However, you are advised to use them as directed, to make sure you get the maximum benefit. Zostrix, Icy Hot, and Bengay are among the nonprescription pain relievers that can be applied topically.
When usual pain treatments don’t work, many people turn to alternative therapies for help, and research has shown that alternative therapies like acupuncture can help relieve joint pain by stimulating natural, pain-relieving chemicals produced by the nervous system.
Glucosamine and chondroitin are known supplements for arthritis, and both are natural substances found in the joint fluid. Each is thought to stimulate the increase of cartilage production, reduce inflammation, and slowed progression of osteoarthritis in the knee. Alternative therapies can help stimulate the production of these chemicals.
Use Assistive Devices
If you feel unstable on your feet, then it’s time for a cane, walker, or knee brace. Assistive devices, in addition to making you feel more stable on your feet, help take the weight off the joint and decrease pain.
Make sure you select an assistive device that fits you and learns how to use it correctly. A lot of people don’t know how to select a cane (the correct length of cane) and don’t know how to hold it or use it. You don’t use a cane on the same side as the pain, and you want to take the load off that side.
In conclusion, most cases of arthritis are osteoarthritis, which is an ancient disease that causes pain, physical dysfunction, and social disability, but not death.
Arthritis occurrence rises sharply with age, and women’s rates exceed men’s at 55 years of age. Persons with arthritis often have other chronic conditions as well (comorbidity), and combining arthritis and visual problems gives a strong exacerbating push to disability.