Osteoarthritis, the wear-and-tear form of arthritis, is very common, affecting 20 million people in the U.S. It is a chronic condition in which the material that cushions the joints, called cartilage, breaks down.
This causes the bones to rub against each other, causing stiffness, pain and loss of joint movement. The cause is not fully understood.
The hands, knees, hips, neck and low back are most commonly involved. And, while osteoarthritis does gradually worsen over time, this does not mean it has to be painful, and there are things that can be done to slow the progression of the disease.
Many people feel that if they have arthritis, they cannot or should not exercise the involved joints. This is often due to a fear of increased pain, or a concern of worsening the arthritis.
Exercise, however, has been shown to decrease arthritis pain and lessen joint stiffness. Exercise can also improve the health of the joint, slowing the progression of arthritis over time.