Osteoarthritis is a very common “wear-and-tear” degenerative change of joint articular cartilage and accompanying joint tissues as we age. The leading cause is joint hypermobility due to ligament or tendon sprain injury causing excessive wear-and-tear erosion of the joint articular cartilage. The joint articular cartilage becomes progressively worn down, causing joint pain.
Associated ligament and tendon sprain injuries may also be contributory. Accidental traumatic injury and repetitive occupational and athletic activities may aggravate and speed up the degenerative process. Also, there are various postural misalignment problems—such as flattened arches and short leg syndrome—that may be primary accelerators of the osteoarthritic process.
Examples of the most common cases include:
- Temporomandibular osteoarthritis
- Intervertebral osteoarthritis—most often in the cervical (neck) and lumbar spine, but can be found anywhere in the spinal column
- Shoulder osteoarthritis
- Chronic arthritis of the metacarpals and fingers of the hand and carpals of the wrist
- Hip osteoarthritis
- Knee osteoarthritis
- Patellar arthritis (e.g., retropatellar chondromalacia)—usually caused by either a flattened plantar arch or short leg syndrome
- Ankle osteoarthritis
- First toe osteoarthritis (e.g., bunion, Hallux limitans, Hallux rigidus)—usually caused by a flattened plantar arch.
Osteoarthritis may inflict any joint in the body that is under any kind of unusual physical stress.
It is usually easily clinically differentiated from chronic rheumatoid arthritis by proper physical examination, laboratory, and radiological testing.