OA (osteoarthritis) is a type of arthritis caused by the breakdown and eventual loss of the cartilage of a joint. Often described as wear-and-tear arthritis, it may be caused by aging, heredity or injury from trauma, disease or even previous surgery. It is the most common form of arthritis and most frequently affects the hands, hips and knees. Symptoms may include aching, cracking, a knobby appearance or loss of range of movement. Mild to moderate osteoarthritis is treated with NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), while severe cases are treated with joint replacement procedures.
A torn ligament involves the complete or partial tear of the ligaments connecting and surrounding the bones of a joint and is caused by an injury such as a sudden twisting motion or forceful blow. Ligament tears may occur at any joint but are most common in the knees. They are most frequently caused by overextension of the leg during exercise or injury during contact sports. Typical symptoms include pain, swelling or bruising. More severe injuries can also cause the knee joint to become stiff, unstable or locked.
Chondromalacia patellae involves the softening of the articular cartilage of the patella (kneecap) and is a common cause of anterior knee pain. Frequently referred to as runner’s knee, this condition often affects young, otherwise healthy athletes. Causes include misalignment of the kneecap, overuse, injury and arthritis of the knee. The main symptom is pain in the front of the knee that worsens when walking uphill or climbing stairs. Women are more commonly affected with chondromalacia, with the most accepted theory being that women experience increased lateral forces on the patella due to a wider hip structure. The condition is sometimes associated with mild or moderate swelling of the knee and some patients report a grinding feeling under the kneecap.
Sprains and strains are both minor injuries occurring at joints where ligaments connect bone to bone and tendons connect bone to muscles. A sprain is an injury to ligaments, the thick, tough, fibrous tissue that connects bones. Ligaments can be sprained by being stretched too far from their normal position under conditions such as excessive exercise, heavy lifting, repetitive motion or minor impacts. A strain is an injury to muscles or tendons. When muscles contract they pull on tendons, which in turn are connected to bone. A strain may result if the muscle is stretched too far or if it is stretched while contracting. These soft-tissue injuries exhibit symptoms of redness, swelling, surface bruising, reduced mobility and a dull, throbbing ache or sharp, cramping pain.