MS Central Question of the Week: Bone and Joint Health

  • Do you feel stiff and achy?  Do your joints hurt?  If so, there is a good chance you have osteoarthritis or OA, one of the oldest and most common forms of arthritis.  Often known as the “wear and tear” kind of arthritis, OA is a chronic condition in which the cartilage that cushions joints breaks down.  Contributing factors may include age, obesity, injury, overuse, and genetics.


    Why am I focusing on osteoarthritis today?  Because tomorrow is World Arthritis Day and this week begins Bone and Joint National Action Week.


    So, Lisa, what does this have to do with multiple sclerosis?  Nothing directly.  However, last week I, an MS patient living with RA, learned that I have early osteoarthritis developing in my knees.  Remember that just because we have one disease doesn’t mean that we are exempt from developing another.

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    For the last few years, I have ignored the stiffness and slight swelling in my knees.  Really I just thought it was related to my rheumatoid arthritis although my rheumatologist didn’t witness the swelling.  (Note: It is always a good time to schedule an appointment with your doctor when you are actually experiencing symptoms which need to be assessed.)


    In early September, I had strained my knees in climbing up-and-down a ladder over several days painting my music studio, including the ceilings.  I knew to rest my knees and iced them down.  I took ibuprofen and waited, allowing them to heal.  They would get better, then my right knee would suddenly get worse while I climbed the stairs in my house.  I ended up taking one at a time.  The pain upon stepping up or pushing down with my right leg was excruciating.


    I finally called the doctor.  After x-rays I was referred to an orthopedist who informed me that I have bone spurs under my kneecap.  (Most likely, I have the same on the left knee as well based on past symptoms.)  This is evidence of early osteoarthritis.  Bah-hum-bug.


    Anyways the reason I had called my doctor in the first place was the hope of getting an injection of cortisone to calm down the inflammation and pain.  The orthopedic doctor gave me just that.  Thank you!  My knee feels the best it has in a very long time.  Just because I have MS and RA doesn’t mean that I couldn’t develop another, more common, disorder.


    If you are experiencing symptoms, which may or may not be related to your current diagnoses, it is always a good idea to share this information with your doctors.  There may be another underlying condition brewing.


    The orthopedist’s suggestion from here out: ride the stationary bike for 30 minutes, three times per week.  He said this is “THE BEST THING YOU CAN DO FOR YOUR QUALITY OF LIFE” with MS. rheumatologist says the same thing regarding my RA.  I’ve got to start acting upon this information.


    My question for you this week:


    Do you discuss all your symptoms with all your doctors or just put up with things because they seem to (or could) relate to MS or your other known disorders?  Do you have osteoarthritis?  If so, what do you do to manage it?


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    Stages of osteoarthritis development:

        •    Cartilage loses its elasticity and is more easily damaged by injury or just by daily use.

        •    This wear and tear on cartilage causes changes to the underlying bone. The bone thickens and cysts may occur underneath the cartilage. Bony growths, called spurs or osteophytes, form near the end of the bone of the affected joint.

        •    Pieces of bone or cartilage float in the joint spaces.

        •    The joint lining, called the synovium, becomes inflamed due to the cartilage breakdown. This causes the formation of inflammation proteins (cytokines) and enzymes which damage the cartilage even more.


    Changes in cartilage and bones of your joints can lead to pain, stiffness and even limitations on how you can use your body.  Deterioration of cartilage can:

        •    Affect the shape and makeup of your joint so that it doesn't function smoothly. This can mean that you have trouble going up and down stairs or you may limp when you walk.

        •    Cause fragments of bone and cartilage to float in joint fluid, resulting in pain and irritation.

        •    Cause bony spurs to develop near the ends of bones.

        •    Means the joint fluid doesn't have enough hyaluronan, which affects the joint's ability to absorb shock.


    The Arthritis Foundation


    Lisa Emrich is author of the blog Brass and Ivory: Life with MS and RA and founder of the Carnival of MS Bloggers.

Published On: October 11, 2010