Joint Pain & Osteoarthritis

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You avoid stairs, because your knee burns. Maybe you can’t play tennis anymore, or even stand or sit for too long. Even walking the dog hurts. What used to come and go has become a constant part of your life. Joint pain that doesn’t give you a day off: You could have osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis can take over your life. But it doesn't have to. At UVA, we can help you manage everything from small aches to grating pain. Our specialists work with you to understand how your joint disease is affecting you.

Our goal is to help you move as pain-free as possible.

Joint Use + Time = Pain

Osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease, doesn’t happen overnight. You’ve been moving your whole life. Eventually, the cartilage that cushions your joints wears down. Bone grinds on bone. That’s why you experience:

  • Soreness
  • Dull ache
  • Burning
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling/inflammation
  • Redness
  • Tenderness

Joint Pain That Gets in the Way

Just because arthritis is common doesn’t make it less tiring. It saps your energy and drive and:

  • Makes it hard to focus on your work
  • Interrupts your sleep
  • Leads to weight gain, which only hurts your joints worse
  • Damages your balance, increasing your risk of falls
  • Causes you to lose the flexibility you need to stay active

It’s no surprise that your mental health might suffer. What started out as some pain becomes a disability.

If you experience depression, talk to your primary care provider. They can help you find the resources you need.

Who Gets Osteoarthritis?

Millions of people of all ages get osteoarthritis. Some people learn to live with it.

But for many, they're too young, too busy, and too invested in activities to just limp along.

Are you in pain but not quite middle-aged? Sometimes, the wearing down happens faster because of:

  • Weight – if you’re heavier, your joints do more work and see more stress
  • Injury – trauma can start the breakdown of cartilage
  • Alignment – joints even a little out of line use up cartilage faster

"Wear and Tear" Arthritis

Osteoarthritis is a “wear-and-tear” form of arthritis. Over time, simple tasks like standing up become painful. Orthopedic surgeon James Browne, MD, discusses osteoarthritis symptoms and the treatment options available at UVA. View osteoarthritis transcript.

Is it Osteoarthritis?

Fracture, infections, and autoimmune diseases can cause joint pain. An X-ray or MRI can show cartilage damage and help distinguish your condition from other forms of arthritis, like rheumatoid arthritis.

An X-ray can show:

  • How much wear and tear exists
  • Whether or not osteoarthritis is the cause
  • If we need to do further investigation to find the source of the pain

At UVA, our radiologists and orthopedic specialists use high-level technology to identify the root of your pain.

Osteoarthritis Knee Pain

The most common symptoms of knee arthritis are pain and stiffness. You might find it especially hard to walk, climb stairs, and get going after sitting for a long time. Some people experience:

  • Buckling, when the joint gives out
  • Locking, when the joint stops moving

Osteoarthritis Hip Issues

Pain is the main symptom of osteoarthritis in the hip. You might think you have a groin pull. You might have a little discomfort at night. Over time, the pain progresses. Some people describe a deep, dull ache that doesn't go away. You could also experience:

  • Locking
  • Grinding
  • Limping
  • Trouble walking upstairs
  • Being unable to stand or sit for long periods
  • Difficulty putting on socks and shoes

Osteoarthritis in the Shoulder

Shoulder arthritis shows up as pain that:

  • Keeps getting worse
  • Shows up everywhere, or just in the back or top of the shoulder
  • Stops you from lifting your arm
  • Makes a grinding, clicking, or snapping sound
  • Hurts badly at night, so you can't sleep

Osteoarthritis Treatment at UVA

Exploring what works best for your body and your life takes time. Choosing the best treatment can feel daunting. No matter what course you pursue, our experts will be with you. We'll help you choose the best treatment for you.

You'll get the highly skilled and compassionate care so many patients trust. We offer:

  • Pain management through medicine: Medication can ease all levels of pain. Some antidepressants, as well as anti-inflammation drugs, can help.
  • Injections: Cortisone, steroids, and hyaluronic acid all play a role in treating joint pain. Cortisone and steroids reduce inflammation, improving pain and movement.
  • Surgery: We only do surgery as a last resort. Painful arthritis that's hurting your daily life could need a surgical solution. But not everyone qualifies for joint replacement.

Osteoarthritis Joint Replacement

About 90-95% of hip and knee replacements in the United States are from osteoarthritis. When nothing relieves your joint pain, and you can't have fun or do work like you used to, joint replacement might be the answer.

But surgery is a big decision. We only recommend that you consider surgery after all other efforts have failed.  And your arthritis and symptoms need to be severe enough to benefit from joint replacement and justify the risks of surgery.

Learn more about your joint replacement options at UVA.

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