Osteoarthritis Pain: A HealthCentral Explainer

CRegal Editor January 18, 2013
  • Osteoarthritis is a painful condition that can affect a number of joints in the body.  Osteoarthritis in the knees, hips and ankles can severely limit mobility while arthritis of the hands can greatly reduce daily functionality.  In fact, 27 million Americans suffer from osteoarthritis and it is estimated that nearly all people over the age of 70 have symptoms of arthritis.

     

    Arthritis is characterized by the painful swelling of the affected joint, wherein the cushioning between the joints begins to break down from overuse or genetics.  As the cartilage between the joints diminishes, the bones begin to rub against one another, leading to pain and swelling in the joint, and often immobility.  Severe osteoarthritis can lead to the need for a cane, a wheelchair or even joint replacement surgery.

     

    New findings on cause of arthritis pain

     

    Often, osteoarthritis is merely associated with aging or obesity – in either case, the joint is breaking down from overuse.  The degenerative process has been established, though why osteoarthritis is painful has long been a mystery.  However, scientists from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago have identified the molecular mechanism that leads to osteoarthritis pain. 

     

    The researchers found that pain can be a product of heightened sensitivity, including mechanical allodynia, where pain is caused by stimuli that normally would not cause it, and also reduced pain thresholds.  They discovered that certain proteins were elevated during mechanical alodynia, making the nerves that carry signals from the sensory organs to the brain more sensitive.  The study also found that when using a serum that blocked the CCR2 protein, mice did not appear to be in any pain, as tracked through the amount of movement exhibited. 

     

    What’s the study mean?

     

    So what does this all mean to osteoarthritis and those who have the condition?  Despite the prevalence of the disease, there is no cure.  Instead, treatment options revolve around pain relief and attempting to prevent further damage by building the muscles around a joint or through reducing the weight the joint carries.  These are certainly not long-term solutions, though, and will not restore the already-damaged cartilage.

     

    According to Dr. Anne-Marie Malfait, associate professor of biochemistry and of internal medicine at Rush and lead researcher on the study, these discoveries change the way that doctors may observe pain relief.  Instead of targeting the breakdown of the cartilage, doctors can try to relieve the pain receptors in the joints.  This could, ultimately, lead to new and innovative ways to relieve the pain of osteoarthritis. 

     

    Sources:

     

    n.p. (2012, December 31). "Scientists Home In On Cause Of Osteoarthritis Pain." Medical News Today. Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/254500.php.