You now know the cause of osteoarthritis, but there are five primary factors that determine the severity of the condition.
The first is simply the degree of misalignment in the joint. Just like our tire example, the worse the misalignment the greater the stress on the cartilage and the faster it will degenerate. If someone has a severe hip misalignment created at age 15, they could have severe arthritic degeneration by age 25.
The second factor is time. Obviously, the longer a misalignment is present the more wear and tear there will be on the cartilage. This is why arthritis gets progressively worse. This also explains why so many people get arthritis in one area or another. As people live, work and play they accumulate muscle damage leading to joint misalignments. As time passes, more damage accumulates. Since many of these imbalances are minor the person doesn’t notice a problem until they are 50 or 60 years old. At that time, they begin to have stiffness and pain in their knee, hip, fingers or whatever joints have been misaligned. Most just assume that it’s a natural part of aging and are unaware that a successful treatment exists, so they just live with the pain or use drugs or other treatments that just cover up their symptoms. Unfortunately, as the condition progressively worsens, stronger drugs and more radical treatments are required to deal with the pain.
A third factor influencing the severity of arthritis is the amount of use the affected joint receives. If someone is physically active in their job, sports, exercise, or other activities their misaligned joint is going to wear out faster than if they are physically inactive. If you rarely drive your car with the misaligned wheel, the tire will last a lot longer.
The fourth factor is weight. It should be easy to see that weight-bearing joints (those most commonly affected with arthritis) such as feet, ankles, knees, hips and spine are going to receive more stress in a 250 pound person than in a 125 pound person. Reducing and maintaining a more normal body weight will not only reduce the pain of arthritis but will slow the progression of cartilage degeneration.
The fifth factor comes from the body’s power of adaptation. When a joint is imbalanced the body actually creates other joint imbalances to compensate and reduce stress to the original imbalanced joint. This can often result in pain relief in the original injured area and explains why a lot of therapies appear to have resolved a problem when they really haven’t. Unfortunately, the compensating area will usually develop a problem of its own after a period of time because of the excessive stress it then receives.
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