Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative joint disease that affects both the cartilage and the bone and soft tissue of the joint. It belongs to the group of “Rheumatic Diseases” and, within this classification, it’s considered a type of arthritis.
OA can occur in the hip, knees, hands, feet and spine – the first three being the most frequent. It produces pain and directly affects the mobility and autonomy of the person who suffers it with the psychological wear and tear it entails. For the OA sufferer, the most common task can become a major obstacle due to the limitations associated with this pathology. In addition, it is linked to other co-morbidity problems such as hypertension or cardiovascular diseases, among others.
The symptoms of osteoarthritis are progressive and dilated over time. In a first stage, the pain associated with movement and the effort to which the joint is submitted appears. Although, in this first phase, the pain ceases with a period of rest. In a second stage, the worsening of the diseases causes the pain to appear after rest and exercise, so that the discomfort is more continuous and practically constant. Another characteristic symptom of the disease is the progressive incapacity of the joint to function, leading – in the long run – to loss of mobility. With the evolution of the disease deformations of the bones and muscular contractures can occur, aggravating the pain and atrophying the muscles that surround the joints.
Globally, it is estimated that 300 million people have osteoarthritis. In addition, it is the main cause of permanent disability and the third cause of temporary workplace incapacity.
Currently, osteoarthritis costs the Spanish Health System an average of 4,738 million euros per year (numbers that reflect solely the cost of osteoarthritis of the knee and hip) and, despite its prevalence, it remains unknown to the majority of the population.
Despite its social impact, osteoarthritis is seen as a distant pathology, only associated with old age. However, the reality is that it not only affects the elderly. With an increased life expectancy and the change of societal attitudes towards a more active lifestyle in which the practice of sports is commonplace, the cases of arthrosis are beginning to be detected in other younger risk groups such as postmenopausal women, sports persons and even young people.