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Arthritis: Warning signs of osteoarthritis that can be felt, seen and heard in the thumbs

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Applicable to any age, osteoarthritis, causes joints to feel stiff and painful. There are two joints in the thumbs that could be affected, and the thumbs may appear swollen and bent out of shape. Arthritis Action confirmed such changes are due to osteoarthritis, as well as the thumbs making “creaking or cracking noises”. “Almost all joints can develop osteoarthritis but the most common places are the fingers, thumbs, knees and hips as well as the low back and neck,” the charity noted.

Inflammation inside of affected joints can lead to the formation of new bone.

It’s the development of new bone that can cause pain and stiffness, as well as the physical deformity.

While the exact cause of osteoarthritis is unknown, one hypothesis is that it develops after repeated small injuries that don’t heal completely.

“Injuries such as a broken bone or sporting injury can lead to osteoarthritis later in life,” the charity warned.

“Being overweight puts extra strain on the weight-bearing joints, especially the knees and hips and this can lead to more severe osteoarthritis.”

Osteoarthritis, however, is not caused by too much exercise. In fact, exercise may help protect osteoarthritis.

This is because exercise can strengthen the muscles that help to support the joints.

Arthritis Action stated: “Latest research suggests that exercise can actually increase the level of anti-inflammatory chemicals inside the joints.

“And these can protect against cartilage loss and joint damage.”

The full range of osteoarthritis symptoms

  • Joint stiffness, especially in the morning and lasting for less than 30 minutes
  • Joint pain, especially on movement and after exercise, for example knee pain when walking upstairs, thumb or wrist pain after gardening
  • Joint tenderness
  • Stiffness and loss of movement in the joint
  • Bony swelling around the edges of the joints, especially in the fingers
  • A creaking or grating noise coming from the joints
  • Loss of muscle around the joint and a feeling of weakness, for example difficulty gripping.

If you suspect you might have arthritis, book an appointment with your doctor.

Is the condition preventable?

While osteoarthritis can not be 100 percent prevented, there are ways to minimise your risk of developing the condition.

One of the key ways to do this is to work out regularly to ensure muscles are strong.

A mixture of aerobic and strengthening exercises are recommended, as well as stretching.

Examples of aerobic exercises include: swimming, walking, and cycling. Strengthening exercises include lifting weights and hill walking.

A healthy diet is also beneficial in preventing osteoarthritis by helping to maintain bone strength.

For those who are looking for ways to manage the pain associated with osteoarthritis, a few options apply.

Firstly, painkiller and anti-inflammatory medicines can help to ease pain and stiffness.

Secondly, stress reduction techniques can help to take your mind off the pain. Examples include:

  • Distraction
  • Meditation.

Joint injections of corticosteroid can also be helpful in alleviating painful symptoms of osteoarthritis.

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