Pain and difficulty using joints are the two main symptoms of osteoarthritis, which affects around 10 million* people in France.
Joints are composed of different types of tissue: bone, cartilage, synovial membrane, etc. The cartilage coating the end of the bone is constantly degenerated and regenerated, just like other living tissues in the body (such as the skin, for example). Osteoarthritis occurs when there is an imbalance between cartilage degeneration and regeneration. The mechanisms behind this imbalance are still not fully understood.
Osteoarthritis is a progressive disease, meaning that the cartilage destruction worsens over time. Initially a disease without symptoms, the cartilage destruction then gradually begins to cause pain and impair movement and may become disabling day-to-day, limiting mobility and adversely affecting quality of life.
Osteoarthritis primarily affects women over the age of 55 and sufferers may be genetically predisposed to the disease in certain forms (osteoarthritis of the knees or hands). But the disease is principally associated with lifestyle factors: a lack of physical activity that weakens joints, obesity putting extra strain on joints, and the after-effects of joint injuries, be they work-related (heavy lifting, working on knees) or sports-related (repeated sudden movements).
Currently, no treatments are available that can completely cure osteoarthritis or even halt it, but its progression can be managed in various ways: lifestyle and dietary measures, medicinal treatments to relieve pain and improve joint function, use of orthotics or walking sticks, thermal spa treatments, etc.
Regular physical activity or physiotherapy exercises can help control weight or strengthen muscles and improve the flexibility of tendons stabilising the joint, to maintain maximum joint mobility. These activities should follow the 3R rule: they need to be rational, regular and reasonable.
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