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Can young people have osteoarthritis?

Can young people have osteoarthritis?

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Most people associate osteoarthritis (OA) with the elderly. This should come as no surprise as statistics suggest that by age 65 more than 50% will have radiological changes suggestive of OA, and almost all individuals by age 85 will have varying degrees of OA.

When I talk about OA with my patients, what is often surprising to them is that it can be common in younger generations, too. There are many reasons why one may have early OA, but the most common causes would be increased body weight and poor biomechanics leading to increased stress on the joint/s.

The other important consideration with osteoarthritis is injuries that may present to physiotherapy as pre-arthritic. Even the sprained ankle that your teenage daughter presents with could be considered pre-arthritic.

Recent research suggests that a large proportion of patient’s presenting with patellofemoral joint pain will develop patellofemoral joint OA later in life.

What is also important to remember is that many younger people will have OA, but this may be without any symptoms for years, and hence would not be diagnosed until it becomes painful or swollen later in life.

For me, this suggests that if I can improve my management of pre-arthritic conditions, it will delay the onset of arthritis for some patients.

This will hopefully enable my patients to lead a happier and healthier life for many years to come.

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