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Insider Arthritis Tips June 2009
June 15, 2009

"Chop your own wood and it will warm you twice." -- Henry Ford, Founder of the Ford Motor Company

How you can tell if you have osteoarthritis

The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis (OA). This type of arthritis is commonly referred to as wear and tear arthritis or degenerative arthritis.”

While this condition probably begins in the early teen years, it does not become symptomatic until a person reaches their 40’s. Osteoarthritis affects cartilage, the slippery elastic tissue that covers the ends of long bones.

Cartilage functions to absorb shock from movement and also to provide a gliding surface for the joints. With OA, the cartilage begins to wear away and the underlying bones begin to rub against each other. This leads to pain.

As OA progresses, it causes swelling and loss of motion. Bone spurs develop and the joint starts to deform. Microscopic particles of cartilage and bone flake off and cause irritation of the joint lining leading to more inflammation which leads to pain and more damage.

Symptoms of OA include pain or stiffness in a joint particularly after getting out of bed or after sitting for a prolonged period of time. Some people have “flares” of their symptoms with weather changes. Stiffness and pain in the joints with movement may occur as may “crunchiness”.

Some people report no symptoms. One study done at the National Institutes of Health showed that one third of patients with osteoarthritis on x-ray had no symptoms.

While any joint may be affected, the most common areas of involvement are weight-bearing parts of the skeleton such as the neck, low back, hips, and knees. The great toe and the base of the thumb are also common locations. In older women the last row of finger joints and the next to last row of finger joints may be affected. Less common sites are the shoulders, elbows, ankles, and jaws.

Many factors including the way people use their joints. Occupational experiences also play a role. For instance, miners and dockworkers may develop knee OA while farmers have a higher incidence of OA of the hip. Ballet dancers can also develop OA in the feet, ankles, and hips. Athletes also fall into a high risk category with women soccer players being more likely to develop knee OA as a result of prior injury. Other athletic activities which cause joint trauma also can be a trigger for the development of OA.

Obesity is a major risk factor for OA of the hips and knees. The famous Framingham study showed that obese women had the most severe OA.

People with other types of arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout are at increased risk for developing OA also. Probably the most significant risk factor is genetic. Patients with a strong family history of OA are at high risk themselves for developing OA. This is most likely a result of defects in cartilage metabolism which hastens wear and tear.

Wei's World June 2009

June 21st is Father’s Day. I don’t think you can really know what your father did for you until you become a father yourself.

My dad didn’t have it easy. He lost his father when he was a baby. His mother took him to a mission school when he was a young boy and he was essentially raised as an orphan. His mother died when he was a teenager.

As a result he was left with a lifelong sense of insecurity. That played a role in how he saw life. He always felt he wasn’t good enough even though he was plenty good. My dad spent 12 years going to night school to get his master’s degree and doctorate in chemistry. My mom did a lot of hard work to watch the four of us kids while holding the household together.

My father, because he was insecure, never asserted himself. Which was not a good thing in the work world. And as a member of a minority in the 1950’s, I think he did what he thought he needed to do to survive.

Make no waves. When I saw how hard my mom worked and how tough it was for us kids to endure the taunting we got in school because of our race, etc, I resented his approach to life. But, in retrospect, I understood it was a survival mechanism.

One of my dear dear friends once told me this very important lesson, “Go home and talk to your father. Tell him what you thought he did right and tell him what you thought he did wrong. It’ll be good for both of you.”

So, I did it. About 10 years ago, I went home. By that time, my father, a widower had remarried. I talked with him about the things I thought he did right and I talked with him about the things I was still angry about. We talked it out. We had a good cry and a hug.

Those of you out there who have kids know how hard it is to be a parent. You do the best job you can. There’s no real textbook. There are no exams. You know you make mistakes and sometimes you know you inflict real pain on your kids. The kind of pain they remember for a long time.

Maybe their whole lives. But it’s good to talk it out. It’s good to know what you did right and what you did wrong.

My father is 87 now. His memory is very poor. Sometimes on the phone he’ll lapse into Chinese even though I don’t speak it. Sometimes he’ll talk about stuff I have no clue about. But the conversation always ends the same way. He’ll say, “Nathan, thanks for calling.” And I’ll say, “It was good to talk with you, Dad. I’ll talk with you again soon.”

I'm working on a new project about PRP/stem cells/prolotherapy. If you have any burning questions you'd like to see answered about these topics, please shoot me an email at Thanks!

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