What is arthrosis? Causes and symptoms of osteoarthritis

Arthrosis (osteoarthritis or deforming osteoarthritis (DOA), or deforming arthrosis) is a disease of the joints, in which the articular cartilage is affected at the initial stages, then the surrounding muscles, ligaments, nerves, and also bone tissue are included in the pathological process.

a patient with arthrosis at a doctor's appointment

Arthrosis is a disease that develops due to various reasons. These include metabolic disorders, trauma, intoxication, etc.

Patients usually call "arthrosis" any joint disease in which pain, limitation of mobility and other discomfort in the area of one or more joints are observed, which is not always true. Osteoarthritis and the associated pains develop as a result of the "aging" of the joints, due to the influence of various negative factors, however, the causes of joint pain can be infections and injuries, and in these cases we are talking about other pathologies.

Arthrosis statistics

Up to 70% of patients at the reception of a general practitioner, therapist, neurologist, surgeon, rheumatologist complain of joint pain. Most often these are pains in the lower back and in the area of large joints (knee, hip). All over the world, up to 70% of cases of long-term disability are accounted for by osteoarthritis. Quite a lot of patients - up to 10% of those who seek help from a doctor as a result of advanced arthrosis receive disability and need constant help. Arthrosis is one of the leading reasons for the premature departure of a person from a full-fledged social life; in statistics, it is second only to coronary heart disease.

The likelihood of developing arthrosis increases with age: in people over 50, it occurs in 27% of cases, in older people over 70, the prevalence is 97%, which is due to the cumulative age-related load on the joints and the expiration of their normal functioning.

knee pain symptoms of arthrosis

Causes and development

The main factor in the development of arthrosis is the malnutrition of the articular cartilage, which leads to its destruction. It is not so important why this happens (great excess weight, professional sports, work habits, hormonal disorders, congenital defects of the joints, etc. ), the result is the same:

  • changes begin in the articular cartilage that lead to a loss of elasticity; microcracks appear in the thickness of the cartilage;
  • the blood supply to the joint is disturbed, the production of joint fluid decreases, the mechanics of the joint changes;
  • then all structures of the joint, adjacent muscles, nerve endings are involved.

The listed degenerative disorders lead to the development of symptoms of arthrosis, and the disease "starts" at the moment when the constant mechanical load becomes prohibitive for the joint (or joints) and starts the processes of its destruction.

Symptoms of arthrosis

Unlike other joint pathologies, arthrosis develops over many years, long-term and imperceptible to humans. At the moment when the body signals a problem in the joint with severe pain, the pathological process in it has already started.

Pain is the main symptom of arthrosis (osteoarthritis), in the initial stages the pain is not very pronounced, weak, more comparable to discomfort. The unpleasant sensations in the joints that arise after the load go away on their own, without any medical or drug intervention, but they quickly become noticeable and limit the usual mobility of a person.

Pain can also occur at rest or at the very beginning of the movement (the so-called "starting"), for example, in the morning after sleep or after sitting for a long time during the day in one position, disappear during movement. For arthrosis, nocturnal rest pains are also characteristic, which also quickly decrease with the onset of physical activity. Patients faced with joint problems usually say that to eliminate discomfort it is necessary to "stretch the bones", "wake up the joints", which, in general, quite accurately characterizes this condition.

Painful sensations arise not only due to disturbances in the work of the joint itself. When all the components of the joint, muscles and nerve endings are involved in the process, the pain becomes varied and excruciating: "shooting" along the nerve, spreading through the muscle. The blood supply to joints, nerves, muscles is disturbed, degenerative changes occur in them quickly.

Temporary or permanent limitations of joint mobility (contractures) develop due to serious pathological changes in the articular and muscle tissues. For example, with arthrosis of the hip joints, the limb is shortened, the pelvis is "skewed" and the spinal column is curved.

arthrosis of the hip joint

Crackling in the joints in the initial stages is almost invisible, but as the disease progresses during movement it becomes constant. This symptom psychologically worries patients with arthrosis even more than pain, since it indicates serious disorders, aging of the body and the musculoskeletal system in particular.

In the later stages of arthrosis, deformity of the joint occurs, which is associated with loss of curvature of all articular surfaces, bone growths, a decrease in the amount of articular fluid, and subluxation of the joint.


Depending on the severity of symptoms, several stages of osteoarthritis are distinguished.

At the first stage, there are no pains at rest and with moderate exertion; they appear only after a high load (fitness, carrying heavy loads, running) or after a long static position. A person does not experience restrictions and difficulties in movement. No drug treatment is required.

In the second stage, pain is pronounced and constant, quickly arises under the influence of provoking factors (long walking, physical activity), does not go away on its own. The patient is limited in movement, the mobility of certain joints is sharply limited - the knee, hip and others. Medical assistance is required, a treatment regimen must be prescribed, including drugs and non-drug methods.

In the third stage, the patient moves with difficulty, needs constant care, the pain is excruciating. As a rule, to restore the quality of life, surgical treatment (endoprosthetics) and massive physiotherapy are necessary.

Symptoms of osteoarthritis appear already at a young age, and in this case it is necessary not to ignore them, but to consult a doctor. Timely treatment will maintain normal joint function and help prevent rapid disease progression.