Osteoarthritis is the commonest form of arthritis. It occurs as a result of wear and tear of the surfaces of synovial joints. Synovial joints are the connections between most of the long bones in the body. They include all the joints of the hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders and legs. Within the spine there are small paired joints at the back of the spine called the facet joints or zygapophyseal joints, which are also synovial joints. There are other connections between the bones, which involve structures made mostly of ligaments, such as the intervertebral discs, which are not classed as synovial joints and therefore are not susceptible to osteoarthritis.
Arthritis implies inflammation or swelling of the joints which may only occur in the early (acute) phase of the condition. Osteoarthritis (or as it is otherwise termed, osteoarthrosis) may gradually develop over a number of years leading to a slow progressive loss of cartilage in the joint often without symptoms. Loss of cartilage leads to degeneration and stiffness of the joint, but may not lead to much in the way of pain or inflammation.
Management needs to be multimodal – importantly for lower limb arthritis weight management needs to be the priority and a specific exercise program known as the GLA-D program has proven benefits.
Brighton Spine and Sports Clinic also offers specific medical treatments: