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OA and synovitis

November 13, 2012

Synovitis causes thickening of the joint capsule, and can worsen OA.


Osteoarthritis is often considered to be a degeneration of cartilage purely due to accumulated wear and tear.  This is not entirely accurate.  If wear and tear accelerated the deterioration of cartilage in the knee, then all exercise would be harmful.  In fact, exercise has been shown to be highly beneficial to individuals with osteoarthritis of the knee.

As explained by Dr. Hersh, Ph.D., M.D., osteoarthritis of the knee is more closely linked to synovitis (inflammation of the joint space).  The inflammation holds extra fluid in the joint space, which increases the pressure on the cartilage, and so greatly increases the friction of the joint.  Since friction leads to rapid degradation of the articular cartilage, this synovitis makes osteoarthritis much worse.  Understanding the role of synovitis in the progression of osteoarthritis is important for two reasons:

1:  Synovitis can be helped by exercise, which can drive fluid out of the joint space.

2:  Treating synovitis can effectively treat osteoarthritis.

This means that exercise can treat osteoarthritis in two ways:

1:  By helping you to lose weight, which reduces the pressure felt by the cartilage of your joints.

2:  By reducing your synovitis, which reduces both pressure and friction in the joint space.

So get out there and exercise.  Your discomfort today will save you far more pain tomorrow.

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