Emily Sohn went to a sports medicine specialist in October 2016 with a foot injury. Having just started running again after many years away from the activity, Sohn had preconceived notions of what might be going wrong. She thought she might be suffering from tendon inflammation, a ligament strain, or plantar fasciitis – the last of which waylaid her more than ten years previously when she had been running marathons. Instead of these common runner’s maladies, Sohn, age 39 at the time, was diagnosed with what she considered to be an old-age disease: osteoarthritis (OA). Unfortunately, she soon learned that the joint degeneration of OA younger in life, called early onset osteoarthritis, is not as rare as many of us would like to think.

What is early onset osteoarthritis?

Understanding early onset osteoarthritis is straightforward: OA, also called “wear and tear” arthritis, is characterized by ongoing degeneration of the joints, accompanied by chronic pain and inflammation. “Early onset” means that the OA arrives earlier than usual in life.

Since OA is a disease of old age (with aging as a primary risk factor), anyone who is diagnosed before the age of 65 could be considered an early-onset case. Many diagnoses occur much younger in life, though. In fact, there are 8 million millennials in the US suffering from arthritis (and although that number is all-inclusive to arthritis types, it only reflects the number for diagnosis, not those who are suffering silently).

What causes this disease?

One of the primary drivers behind the disease arising earlier in life is performing exercise that is too strenuous and excessively stresses knees and other joints, according to David T. Neuman, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at New York City’s Mount Sinai Hospital. Workouts that have a strong focus on high-impact routines, such as hard-hitting weight-loss boot camps or CrossFit, can lead to being sidelined by the chronic pain and inflammation of OA.

Simple ways to treat OA

What can you do about early onset osteoarthritis? Here are four simple steps you can take:

1. Use ice. For three days, up to five times per day, use ice on the joint for 20 minutes. (An easy way to lower the intensity of the cold is to wrap it in a T-shirt.)
2. Get your blood flowing. Before and after you exercise, swing your legs around or walk in place to enhance circulation.
3. Respect pain. You may be used to dull pain related to a chronic issue or simply challenging the joint, but any sharp pain tells you to stop.
4. Get help. You can recover to a great extent through DIY efforts. However, if pain is still present after two weeks, it is important to seek medical assistance and expertise.

Moving forward

Are you experiencing early onset osteoarthritis – unable to do the things you love and maintain the workouts that keep you healthy because of the disease? Seek help from those who care. At Advanced Wellness and Rehab, we have a genuine concern for your well-being and long-term health. Receive a free consultation.