How can I prevent and treat osteoarthritis?

Arthritis is a general term that describes pain and inflammation in joints. Osteoarthritis, also called degenerative joint disease, is the most common form of arthritis, affecting about 28 million Americans, 80 percent of whom are women. The disease is most prevalent in people aged 55 and older, and is often attributed to general wear and tear associated with aging. However, it can also be caused or exacerbated by a number of other problems, including injury, repeated joint stress, genetics, or being overweight.

Osteoarthritis is usually treated by medications, exercise, application of heat or cold to the painful joint, use of supportive devices, and weight control. Surgery, such as joint replacement, may be helpful when other treatment options have not been effective. Range of motion exercises and strength training are recommended to help maintain mobility and enhance stability of the affected joint(s). The goals of treatment are to accomplish the following: 1) Decrease joint pain and stiffness; 2) Improve joint mobility and stability; and 3) Increase ability to do daily activities.