Osteoarthritis is a pathology that has very varied interpretations depending on the patients and the concept is quite simple, with certain nuances. Everything in life wears off over time. Materials lose their properties and deteriorate over time. Biological material is no stranger to time and wear factors.
The joints in the human body are responsible for allowing the movement of two bones. If we imagine a knee for example, throughout life we bend it and extend it a thousand times carrying the full weight of our body on it. To be able to bend and extend, the bones are meshed and there is friction between them as in the parts of a mechano. Genetics has provided these parts of the body with a cartilage coating that is optimal for sliding, as well as a fluid inside the joint that acts as a lubricant to further improve mobility between bones.
The genetics makes these joints work optimally for many years but continued friction leads to wear. The increase in life expectancy makes our natural joints more and more intense. But not all joints wear out the same. There are joints in the body that do not usually produce problems of osteoarthritis throughout life. The elbow and ankle, for example, do not usually produce osteoarthritis unless they have a fracture that accelerates their aging. However, the knees, hips and spine are places where osteoarthritis gives problems.
Osteoarthritis is not always an illness of the elderly. There are factors that make this natural wear and tear accelerate and appear osteoarthritis before time or in joints that do not usually suffer. Some diseases that affect joints, genetic factors and injuries with joint injuries can accelerate this aging.
In the column the typical sites of osteoarthritis are the cervical zone and the last lumbar vertebrae. Osteoarthritis itself does not have to hurt. In fact, almost everyone has some degree of osteoarthritis over the years, and not everyone will have symptoms because of it. Another interesting fact is that there are people with a lot of osteoarthritis on the x-ray and yet they do not have pain. On the contrary, there are degrees of milder osteoarthritis that are very symptomatic.
There are patients who leave very worried about the consultations because they have been told that theirs is “degenerative”. This word is harmful because it seems that we can not do anything and we are going to get worse whatever we do, and the reality is not this. It is said degenerative many times because it is a wear and tear that will go to more. It goes more because it is a wear and tear that goes with our natural aging but more wear does not mean more pain or worse. That is, we can have a time of pain and then spend years without symptoms. Osteoarthritis will not always hurt or give you the same problems.
Most of the time the symptoms of osteoarthritis can be treated and improved using non-invasive means such as medication and rehabilitation processes. In the knee and hip, when the pain does not give way and we cannot walk, the final solution is the placement of a prosthesis that replaces our joint with a metal. In the back we cannot do this because of the delicacy of the area when passing vital structures through the vertebrae, but there are other “final” solutions that we will talk about.
We already know what this is about osteoarthritis. In later posts we will explain the particularities of osteoarthritis in the back and neck separately.
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