Osteoarthritis is sometimes called wear and tear arthritis because it is caused by physical damage to the joints of the body. Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage in the joints breaks down over time. Cartilage is the smooth connective tissue that covers the ends of the bones and prevents them from rubbing together. The tissue is rubbery and flexible when healthy. High impact exercise, walking, and other activities can damage the cartilage and cause them to start to degenerate. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. The synovium is a membrane surrounding the joint that produces a thick fluid called synovial fluid. This fluid helps the cartilage stay healthy. Wear and tear can cause this fluid to become thick. This leads to inflammation when then causes the synovium to produce even more fluid in an attempt to heal itself. This extra fluid in the joint causes fluid build up and can lead to the development of osteoarthritis. Once the cartilage deteriorates to the point where the bones are rubbing against each other, it leads to even more pain and inflammation. As this continues, the bones begin to grow spurs, called osteophytes.
As one ages, the ability to recover from injury deteriorates. It is common to experience pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints as you age. As muscle tone also deteriorates with age, it is more likely to cause more cartilage damage. The severity of osteoarthritis can range from minor aches and pains to a debilitating condition. The joints most commonly affected are the feet, hands, spine, hips, and knees.
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