Is OA caused by "wear and tear" on joints or by other problems?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

For many years, doctors assumed that the joint pain of osteoarthritis was caused by wear and tear, like a well-used car wears out its tires and shocks. In the body, the edges of bones, where joints form, are protected by tissue called cartilage. Cartilage is tough, but over the years it can wear down. If cartilage withers away, bone can rub against bone, causing pain. Injuries can add stress on joints, making osteoarthritis even more likely.

However, recent research gives powerful clues that osteoarthritis isn't only caused by wear and tear. For example, obese people have a high risk for osteoarthritis of the knee. That makes sense, since all those extra pounds put added pressure on the joints, right? But consider this: Obese people have a higher risk for osteoarthritis in their hands too. Some scientists think they can explain why. Body fat produces inflammatory chemicals, so it could be that these chemicals attack joints and cause osteoarthritis.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that osteoarthritis is not an inevitable part of aging. Despite the old wear-and-tear theory, staying active and maintaining a healthy weight may be one of the best things you can do to avoid osteoarthritis. 

OA (osteoarthritis) can be caused by wear and tear on the joints, and is more prevalent in people over the age of 65. As we age, all of the bending, kneeling, running and jumping movements we did throughout the years begin to catch up with us. Wear and tear can cause osteoarthritis when the cartilage that supports and cushions the joints of the hands, spine, hips, and knees wears away, causing bones to rub against each other. Aging itself is a leading cause of OA and it's estimated that a third of people age 65 and older have osteoarthritis.

But wear and tear isn't the only cause of osteoarthritis. Injuries, the stress of repetitive motions, obesity and even some genetic conditions can also cause OA. Wear and tear on the joints can be minimized by resting between strenuous activities, maintaining a healthy weight and staying active using low-impact exercises such as walking, swimming and stretching.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.