Osteoarthritis is not defined as a disease, but rather as a degenerative process, just as other degenerative processes that come with old age, this is the most common form of rheumatism in the elderly. It is caused as a result of damage to the cartilage that is located in the area of friction between the bones in the various joints in the body. Cartilage is a white tissue, soft and smooth, which coats the bones in the parts in which the joint moves. The cartilage coating produces smooth and harmonious movement of the joint. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage tissue degenerates and is worn away until the bones below become exposed, and rub against each other when the joint is operated. Although this phenomenon could affect any of the body’s joints, it is mainly common in the knees (Osteoarthritis of the Knee Joint), and in the hip joints (Osteoarthritis of the Hip Joint), the spine and the hands.
Osteoarthritis becomes more common as age advances, and is to be found in 34% of the elderly population above the age of 65. The phenomenon affects millions of people all over the world, and continues to grow for a variety of reasons, such as a growing elderly population. Life expectancy has risen over the years, and people aged 60 – 70 still maintain a vital, active lifestyle, while on the other hand the “plague” of obesity, which affects many countries throughout the world, including Israel, contributes its part, as a risk factor, in aggravating the phenomenon.
Osteoarthritis is considered a leading cause of disability, and has a significant impact on the quality of life. 80% of those with osteoarthritis will suffer from some sort of physical restriction, and about a quarter of them will be unable to perform fundamental functions of daily life (standing, walking, going up and down stairs).