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Osteoarthritis refers to the breakdown or loss of joint cartilage between the bones of the joints in the hands, feet, spine, hips, and knees. The condition, also known as degenerative arthritis, can cause severe pain and debilitation and affects millions of Americans. While osteoarthritis can damage any joint in your body, the disorder most commonly affects joints in your hands, neck, lower back, knees and hips.
Arthritis means “joint inflammation.” Arthritis causes pain and swelling in the body’s joints such as the knees or hips. There are many types of arthritis but osteoarthritis is the most common. Osteoarthritis is often referred to as degenerative joint disease or age related arthritis because it develops as people get older.

Among over 100 different types of arthritis conditions, osteoarthritis is the most common affecting over 20 million people in the United States. Osteoarthritis can result from damage or injury, wear-and-tear, and/or the natural progression of age. Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage that cushions the ends of bones in your joints deteriorates over time. Cartilage is a firm, slippery tissue that permits nearly frictionless joint motion. In osteoarthritis, the slick surface of the cartilage becomes rough. Eventually, if the cartilage wears down completely, you may be left with bone rubbing on bone.

Symptoms of the condition typically include pain in the area and loss of range of motion, not necessarily occurring at the same time. Patients who have osteoarthritis of the hip or knee sometimes have problems walking. They often have joint stiffness, pain and swelling. A “locking” or grating sensation is also a symptom of osteoarthritis, and joint swelling can occur as the condition progresses. Pain is often worse when you bear weight on the affected limb.

During the physical exam, your doctor will closely examine your affected joint, checking for tenderness, swelling or redness. He or she will also check the joint’s range of motion. Your doctor may also recommend imaging and lab tests.

Imaging tests

X-rays – Cartilage doesn’t show up on X-ray images, but the loss of cartilage is revealed by a narrowing of the space between the bones in your joint. An X-ray may also show bone spurs around a joint.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – MRI uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field to produce detailed images of bone and soft tissues, including bone cartilage. This can be helpful in determining what exactly is causing your pain.

Lab tests

Blood tests – Blood tests may help rule out other causes of joint pain, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Joint fluid analysis – Your doctor may use a needle to draw fluid out of the affected joint. Examining and testing the fluid from your joint can determine if there’s inflammation and if your pain is caused by gout or an infection.

While you cannot reverse the effects of osteoarthritis, early nonsurgical treatment may help avoid a lot of pain and slow the progression of the disease. Treatment programs can consist of weight reduction, physical therapy or occupational therapy, medications, or surgery. Following a physical therapy program of gentle-regular exercise can help improve strength and range of motion to the affected joint. Surgery can offer patients with severe cases of osteoarthritis joint replacement, or a smoother surface to the joints to provide better range of motion.

It is important to consult with your Orthopaedic Care Specialists doctor to decide the appropriate treatment plan for you. (561) 840-1090