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Osteoarthritis is a chronic disease of the joints, especially the weight-bearing joints that develops when the linings of joints degenerate, leading to lipping and spurring of bone, pain, and decreased mobility and function.
Osteoarthritis is a universal consequence of aging among animals with a bony skeleton. Many factors contribute to the development of osteoarthritis; the disease is primarily associated with aging and injury and was once called “wear-and-tear” arthritis. Osteoarthritis may occur secondary to many other conditions. However, in most cases, the true cause of osteoarthritis is unknown.
The onset of osteoarthritis is gradual and most often affects the hips, knees, fingers, and spine, although other joints also may be involved. Pain is the main symptom, which usually worsens with exercise and is relieved by rest. Morning stiffness is also common and diminishes with movement. As osteoarthritis progresses, joint motion is lost, and tenderness and grating sensations may develop. Osteoarthritis of the spine may lead to shooting pains down the arms or legs.
Several clinical trials have examined the efficacy of acupuncture for osteoarthritis, with mixed results. Some trials found acupuncture treatment to be no more effective than either placebo4 or sham acupuncture5 at relieving osteoarthritis pain. Other trials have demonstrated a significant effect of acupuncture on the relief of osteoarthritis pain compared to placebo.6, 7 A well-designed trial found that acupuncture treatments (twice weekly for eight weeks) significantly improved pain and disability in people with osteoarthritis of the knee compared to no treatment.8 When the group receiving no treatment was switched to acupuncture treatments, they experienced similar improvements.
In a controlled trial, a combination of manual physical therapy (by a qualified physical therapist) and supervised exercise significantly improved walking distance and pain in a group of people with osteoarthritis of the knee.9 The therapeutic regimen consisted of manual therapy to the knee, low back, hip, and ankle as necessary, as well as a standardized knee-exercise program performed at home and in the clinic. The treatments were given twice weekly at the clinic for four weeks.
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The information presented by Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2017.