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What is Osteoarthritis?

Arthritis is basically the absence of normal cartilage within a joint, and Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint condition that affects more than 27 million Americans.

When we are young, the ends of our bones are covered by a thick protective coating called cartilage.  The cartilage layer cushions the surface of the bones as they contact one another and allows for smooth joint movement. As I explain in the video below, Osteoarthritis is caused by wear-and-tear and thinning of the cartilage layer of bone.  As the cartilage layer thins, bones become closer to one another and can eventually develop bone-on-bone grinding within the joint.

Osteoarthritis can damage the entire joint - causing tissue inflammation,changes in the bone surfaces and deterioration of tendinous attachments that help stabilize the joint.

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

The most common signs and symptoms of Osteoarthritis are typically seen in the hands, knees, hips and lower spine joints and include:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Grinding Sensation
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Decreased range of motion
As cartilage wears-down, the bones become closer together within the joint.

5 Risk Factors for Osteoarthritis

Advanced Age

Osteoarthritis is a chronic, age-related disorder. It is often described as a long-term degenerative disease and thought by many to bean inevitable consequence of growing old. Approximately 80% of older adults,ages 55 years and older, have evidence of osteoarthritis on X-ray. Of these, an estimated 60% experience symptoms. Current research suggests the relationship between aging and Osteoarthritis is that aging of our joints increases our susceptibility to Osteoarthritis but alone does not cause it. 

Osteoarthritis is not restricted to older adults. When younger people develop Osteoarthritis symptoms,  there is often an underlying reason, such as joint injury or repetitive joint stress from overuse.

RELATED ARTICLE: Total Knee Replacement


Your risk of developing Osteoarthritis may be higher if you have a family history of the disease. Joint defects and your susceptibility to environmental factors can be determined by your genetics. You’re more likely to suffer from Osteoarthritis symptoms if your parents, grandparents, or siblings have the condition.

Learning about your family’s health history can help your doctor come up with an appropriate treatment plan for you. Correct diagnosis and treatment of arthritis relies heavily on medical history as well as your physical examination.

Women >> Men

Gender also plays a role in osteoarthritis. Overall, after the age of 55, more women than men develop the progressive symptoms of Osteoarthritis. Although the presentation of osteoarthritis does not differ between men and women, symptom severity does.

Post-menopausal women have an increased incidence of knee osteoarthritis compared to men, and often experience more severe arthritis in the knee.


People who have injured a joint, perhaps while playing a sport, are more likely to eventually develop arthritis in that joint. Even injuries that occurred many years ago and seemingly healed can increase your risk of osteoarthritis.

Common joint injuries that may lead to Osteoarthritis include:

  • torn cartilage
  • dislocated joints
  • ligament injuries

In addition, occupations that require repetitive, strenuous motions day after day, year after year, can increase your risk of developing arthritis.

Osteoarthritis is the third fastest growing cause of disability.


Osteoarthritis affects people of all ages, genders, and sizes, but your risk for developing the symptomatic arthritis increases if you’re overweight. Carrying extra body weight contributes to osteoarthritis in several ways, and the more you weigh, the greater your risk.

Excess body weight places adds stress to weight-bearing joints, especially your hips and knees. In addition, fat tissue produces proteins that can cause harmful inflammation in and around your joints.

Osteoarthritis is a chronic and progressive medical condition with most people’s symptoms increasing over time. You can not change many of the risk factors listed above. The good news is that there are many different treatments available to ease your pain and maintain your mobility. Early treatment means less time in pain, and more time living life to its fullest. Make an appointment with your doctor as soon as you suspect you might have arthritis.


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Cory Calendine, MD is an Orthopaedic Surgeon and founding partner of the Bone and Joint Institute of Tennessee at Williamson County Hospital in Franklin, TN. Dr. Calendine is an expert in Joint Replacement, specializing in Hip and Knee Surgery. From diagnosis through treatment, the Orthopaedic Surgical experts at the Bone and Joint Institute use the latest techniques and technology to improve care for people with musculoskeletal problems. For more information, please contact our office or schedule your appointment today.  

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