By Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon Mr Per Anderberg
You find it harder and more painful to walk than you used to and notice you are increasingly reaching for the painkillers. Sound familiar?
For many it will as these are typical symptoms of osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis that affects around one million people in this country alone. Although there is no cure, there is now much that can be done for many forms of this disease.
Once known as wear and tear arthritis, this occurs when the protective cartilage at the end of the bones become thinner while the bone itself becomes harder. This alters the shape of the joint and leads to stiffness and makes movement hard.
Many people don’t bother going to seek medical advice and shrug it off as ‘just a part of getting older.’ While it is true there is no cure per se there is much that can be done and the sooner you ask for help the better.
"The usual symptoms are pain or swelling, locking or giving way of the joint, limping, or changes in the gait", says Mr Per Anderberg, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at The Horder Centre.
Sometimes the patient thinks there is nothing that can be done for them and so delay going to the doctor. Or they think that the only option is surgery and they don’t want that. The truth is that there are other options – such as painkillers, or steroid or hyaluronic acid injections.
“Simple lifestyle measures such as losing weight or becoming more active also can help. Even if surgery is suggested, the joint replacements we do now are very successful and can last for 20 years or more .”
Doing nothing is the worst possible option. It weakens muscles around already painful joints and leaves them less supported.
“Also if someone is limping or has an altered gait for a long time this can have a knock-on effect on other joints in the legs and back,” says Mr Anderberg.