Can an Injury Lead to Osteoarthritis?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the United States, reducing the activity level of nearly 19 million adults. Osteoarthritis (OA) is the degenerative form of arthritis, which can develop as the result of damage to a joint in the body, including in the hip, knee, shoulder, as well as in smaller joints in the hands and feet. While this type of arthritis typically occurs naturally in older adults, OA can also be the result of an injury to the joint, which can erode cartilage. Cartilage covers the bones in a joint, which acts like a shock absorber, allowing the joint to move smoothly. When the cartilage is damaged, the body tries to compensate for the loss by producing fluid in the joint lining, which acts like a cushion. But the fluid also causes the joint to swell, restricting motion and causing pain. Sometimes this form of arthritis is referred to as post-traumatic osteoarthritis. Symptoms of this type of arthritis are painful, swollen, stiff and enlarged or deformed joints. 

Preventing Osteoarthritis

The best way to prevent osteoarthritis from developing is to limit the amount of unnecessary stress on your joints. For example, when working or exercising, be sure to use good posture, which can protect your joints from excessive pressure, especially in your neck, back, hips and knees. If a joint does start to bother you, rest it until it starts to feel better. The Arthritis Foundation recommends these tips to help protect you against developing osteoarthritis:

  • Maintain a healthy body weight-Being overweight puts additional stress on your joints, especially in your hips, knees, back and feet.
  • Stay active-Getting regular exercise strengthens muscles around the joints, which can help prevent wear and tear on joint cartilage.
  • Participate in a variety of physical activities-Alternate your exercise routine so you don't place repetitive stress on the same joints for long periods of time. For example, if you do weight training one day, switch to aerobic exercise the next.
  • Start sports activities slowly-When trying out a new sporting activity, start slowly to see how your body responds. This is a good way to reduce your chance of injury.
  • Avoid injury to the joints-Before participating in any sporting activity, be sure to wear the proper safety attire, including helmets and wrist pads.