One of the most common conditions in the United States and the most common type of arthritis, osteoarthritis affects millions of people each year. Your chances of having the condition increase as you get older, and it is considered the arthritis of the aging. It stems in great part from the routine wear and tear of daily living. Osteoarthritis develops when the cartilage that cushions your joints breaks down, causing bone to rub on bone, which can be very painful. Mount Sinai rheumatologists have extensive experience with osteoarthritis and can help with a variety of treatment options.

Osteoarthritis develops in your joints, most often in the fingertips. It can also affect your knees, ankles, feet, and hips. Symptoms include pain, tenderness, stiffness, loss of flexibility, and bone spurs. You can feel it on one or both sides of the body. Over time, osteoarthritis may cause bones to break down and bits of bone or cartilage to break off and float around in the joint.

Risk factors for osteoarthritis, in addition to advancing age, are:

  • Bone deformities: If you were born with a joint that doesn’t function properly, it can lead to osteoarthritis.
  • Genetics: Some people have a genetic predisposition to the disease.
  • Joint injuries: Injuries from an accident or playing sports can increase your chances of developing osteoarthritis.
  • Obesity: Carrying excess weight puts pressure on your joints and causes the cartilage to break down.
  • Repetitive motion: Repeated stress on a joint can cause osteoarthritis.
  • Sex: Women are more likely to develop osteoarthritis than men.

We diagnose osteoarthritis by starting with a physical exam. We may also take X-rays or magnetic resonance imaging scans.

Treatments We Offer

Physical therapy is an important part of treating osteoarthritis. Exercise, particularly low-impact exercise such as swimming, biking, and using the elliptical machine, is very useful. Tai chi, yoga, and Pilates can also help. Our physical therapists can help you determine the best way to treat your osteoarthritis symptoms.

We can also prescribe medication to decrease your pain and improve your mobility. We use a variety of types of medicines:

  • Acetaminophen: Tylenol may be all you need.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen sodium: Can provide relief.
  • Duloxetine (Cymbalta): Typically an antidepressant, it can reduce osteoarthritis pain.

If none of this helps and your symptoms are especially severe, we can consider procedures or surgeries. We work closely with orthopedists who perform these procedures. These procedures might include:

  • Cortisone injections: Might decrease pain but can worsen joint damage over time
  • Lubrication injections: Can add cushioning to the joint
  • Realigning bones: Can be helpful if one side of the joint has been damaged more than the other
  • Joint replacement: Involves removing the damaged joint and replacing it with an artificial one

Why Mount Sinai

We work closely with specialists throughout the Health System. We work with physical therapists to determine appropriate exercises and with orthopedists, should surgery be appropriate. Our comprehensive network of specialists is here to help.