Understanding Osteoarthritis (OA) and Neck Pain, Back Pain, and Sciatica

by coachz on December 23, 2009

Osteoarthritis, Aging, and the Back Pain Complex

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most frequently diagnosed musculoskeletal condition in people over 50 years of age.

OA is the arthritis of your parents and grandparents and arthritis-related spine pain is responsible for debilitating levels of neck pain, back pain, and sciatica in millions of people worldwide.

Osteoarthritis or OA is generally characterized by focal degeneration of the joint cartilage and new bone formation at the base of the cartilage lesion, the subchondral bone, and at the joint margins, often referred to as bony spurs, bone spurs or osteophytes.

The Historical Record and OA

Interestingly, osteoarthritis occurs in all mammals. Osteoarthritis is the earliest documented human disease and the earliest human skeletons shown evidence of OA. In research I conducted at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History (CMNH), the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), The Smithsonian, and the University of Kentucky, Lexington osteoarthritis was evident and, in fact, pervasive in modern and pre-Columbian skeletal samples. It is evident that OA has been around as long as we have, at the very least.

There are two types of OA, primary and secondary. In this article, we will be dealing with the probable etiology, the cause or causes for OA. We will also talk briefly about subcategories of OA, to include localized, generalized, and erosive osteoarthritis. Finally, we will discuss how OA affects spine-related pain or what I refer to as the back pain complex (i.e., neck pain, back pain, and sciatic nerve pain or sciatica).

Once again, osteoarthritis, as it affects the spine, is responsible for spine-related pain, meaning neck pain, back pain, and sciatica.

Localized osteoarthritis presents with Heberden nodes, but without other joint involvement, and is the most common form of OA. Studies of families demonstrate genetic factors being of importance in the development of Heberden nodes. This presentation of OA has to do with the distal interphalangeal joints, is localized primarily in the distal (away from the wrist) finger and toe joints, and affects women more than men. The interesting thing about Heberden nodes, sometimes mistakenly called Herberden, after William Heberden (1710-1801) is that they are a calcifc node, an osteophyte…osteophytes develop as a result of wear and tear at the joint and can be found wherever advanced osteoarthritis is found.

Generalized osteoarthritis was named by R. Moore in 1952 is defined by involvement of three or more joints or joint groups, for example the distal interphalangeal joints (DIP) are grouped and counted as one group. The DIP, proximal interphalangeal joints (PIP), first carpometacarpal (CMC), spine, knee, and hip joints are commonly involved. Other features of generalized osteoarthritis include predilection for postmenopausal women and episodic joint inflammation. See: (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2022370/?page=6).

Generalized osteoarthritis is also labeled as primary, generalized OA and, once again, is recognized by the involvement of several joints or joint groups, as noted above.

In most instances, generalized OA presents in the knees, spine, hips, OA also affects the fingers and the big toe. Interestingly, the shoulders, elbows and wrists are generally not involved in the generalized form of OA.

Secondary osteoarthritis is generally thought to have an underlying cause or that the patient has a predisposition to secondary OA. The underlying conditions of secondary osteoarthritis associated with etiology include a myriad of other arthritis-related contributory conditions, such as excess weight and/or obesity, injury, overuse of the affected joint, and much more.

Secondary OA, for the purposes of understanding neck pain, back pain, and sciatica, seems a more significant, contributory factor.

Once again, osteoarthritis, what your grandparents and parents used to call arthritis, is the most common type of degenerative joint disease.

OA is essentially a consequence of wear and tear or trauma and shouldn’t be confused with rheumatoid arthritis or RA, the second most common form of more than 100 forms of arthritis. In one series, 15% of erosive osteoarthritis patients subsequently fulfilled criteria for a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis or RA. I have dealt with RA extensively at here at Ultimate Neck Pain, Back Pain, and Sciatica Relief Strategies.

Osteoarthritis has many causes, to include recurrence minor joint damage, repetitive motion injuries, and specific joint-related trauma.

Osteoarthritis presents when the cartilage wears down between the bones, at the joints, and the bone begins to undergo changes as a result of trauma. Without adequate cartilage bones rub together at the joint causing pain and stiffness.

OA affects more than 27 million adults in the United States alone, and affects more women than men. Additionally, osteoarthritis results in neck pain, back pain, hip pain, and knee pain, in millions of people around the globe every year.

Interestingly, while the majority of OA sufferers are 50 years of age or older, there are also millions of affected individuals in their 30s and 40s.

In spite of what you may have heard, osteoarthritis is not inevitable. Being proactive, and integrating an activity and exercise program into your daily regimen will help offset the effects and the neck pain, back pain, hip pain, knee pain, and other related joint pain associated with osteoarthritis.

Overall osteoarthritis has multiple causes, affects individuals 50 years of age and older more frequently, and depending on the type of osteoarthritis, may affect men or women more frequently.

The five factors play a big part in etiology, particularly excess weight and/or obesity, muscle weakness, and dehydration. However, diet and nutrition is also thought to play a big part on contributing to and exacerbating OA, and consequently neck pain, back pain, and sciatica.

We will explore the five factors and OA in subsequent articles and videos.

Contact me anytime!


Professor John P. J. Zajaros, Sr., The Bad Back Guy
Skype: johnzajaros1

PS, For a program guaranteed to help you deal effectively with osteoarthritis related neck pain, back pain, hip pain, and knee pain, got to http://TheBadBackGuy.net and discover real and lasting pain relief! Guaranteed!

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