It used to be treated as "wear and tear« of the bones/cartilage of synovial joints, however nowadays it is classified as a metabolically active process involving the entire joint: cartilage, bones, capsules, muscles and mucous membranes of the joint.
There are factors that increase the risk for osteoarthritis:
previous major joint damage or surgery can lead to osteoarthritis in later life
other conditions such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis
old age - osteoarthritis usually begins to develop after the age of 45. This may be due to changes associated with ageing, such as decreased activity, weight gain, muscle weakness, and reduced rates of self-healing processes
sex - osteoarthritis is more common in women
joint abnormalities and giving birth can lead to earlier osteoarthritis (e.g. instability, poor muscle function)
ethnic background - osteoarthritis is more common in black and Asian populations
some professions (e.g. farming)
Signs and symptoms:
typical symptoms of osteoarthritis are poor joint mobility and pain
some people also experience a feeling of stiffness in and/or swelling of the joints, as well as excessive cracking
symptoms vary from person to person; some feel very little pain, while others experience severe pain that limits their daily activities
the most commonly affected joints are the hips, knees, small joints of the hands and spine
Examinations: The first examination procedure is an X-ray scan. Other tests may include blood tests, including testing for inflammation markers, which are used to rule out inflammatory arthritis (such as rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis).
Which supplementary and alternative therapies should I try?