Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in the UK and occurs after the cartilage cells protecting the joint are unable to release a sufficient amount of protein to repair the damage. This causes cartilage to soften and as a result, over time, it wears away. This is commonly referred to or heard of as ‘wear and tear’. Due to this, the cartilage begins to lose some of its elasticity, causing pain and stiffness in and around the joints.
Ultimately, this can cause larger areas of cartilage to deteriorate and weaken – so much the joint begins to change in shape, with the area between the joints becoming narrower.
As well as this, the bone at the edge of your joint grows outwards, forming bony spurs called osteophytes. In some cases, fragments of bone break off from the damaged joint surface and float freely between the joints, causing them to ‘lock’ or stiffen.
Eventually, the process of wear and tear will cause both pain and reduce the ability to move the joint within its full range of motion.
A joint with osteoarthritis is larger in size than a healthy joint – often giving it a swollen, enlarged appearance.