Getting out of bed used to be a breeze. Now, when you hear that alarm clock, you moan. You know your hip will be stiff, and the pain will set in as soon as you step onto the floor.

For many people, hip or knee pain has a cause. It’s called osteoarthritis. You may also hear people call it “wear and tear” arthritis or degenerative joint disease. It affects more than 20 million Americans and is more common as we age. Your pain comes from the breakdown of the protective cartilage that covers the ends of your bone. This causes irritation, stiffness and pain.

Osteoarthritis can affect any joint, but it’s most common in your largest weight-bearing joints: your knees and hips. There is no cure, but there are many available treatments. The local, experienced orthopaedic experts at Grand View Health can help. We will take a personal approach to your care at every step of your journey.

Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about osteoarthritis to help guide you:

What causes osteoarthritis?

There are two types of osteoarthritis—primary and secondary. The cause of primary osteoarthritis is unknown, but the condition is related to the wear-and-tear of aging. As you age, the water content of your cartilage increases, while your protein structure deteriorates. This causes the cartilage to become flaky and covered in tiny cracks. In advanced cases, the entire cartilage cushion is lost, resulting in painful bone-on-bone contact.

The cause of secondary osteoarthritis is known. It’s caused by conditions such as obesity, trauma, diabetes, gout or congenital joint defects. In both types of osteoarthritis, the symptoms are the same—mild to severe pain, morning stiffness, a loss of easy movement, and heat and swelling of the hip or knee.

How is osteoarthritis diagnosed?

There is no blood test for osteoarthritis. But your doctor may order blood tests to rule out causes of secondary osteoarthritis, or to rule out other types of arthritis. In some cases, your doctor may perform a test called arthrocentesis to rule out joint infection, gout or other conditions. This involves removing joint fluid with a sterile needle and then analyzing that fluid.

Once other problems are ruled out, a simple X-ray and an examination by an orthopaedic specialist will confirm an osteoarthritis diagnosis and measure its severity. If you have osteoarthritis in the hip or knee, your X-ray will show a narrowing of space between the joint, confirming the loss of protective cartilage.

How is osteoarthritis treated?

Your doctor will determine treatment based on your age, overall health and medical history, the severity of your condition, and your tolerance and preferences for specific treatments. All treatments aim to reduce your joint pain and stiffness, and to improve joint movement. Treatment may include:

Exercise: Stretching and strengthening exercises may help reduce your pain and symptoms. Your doctor will work with you to find a balanced routine of rest and exercise that’s best for your joints.

Diet: Staying at a healthy weight can prevent or reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis.

Cold and Heat Therapy: Applying ice or a heating pad to your painful hip or knee for 15 or 20 minutes may reduce inflammation and pain.

Medications: Pain relievers (analgesics), such as acetaminophen, and NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications), such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen, are used most often. Ask your doctor which one may be right for you.

Cortisone injection: This treatment may reduce pain or restore function for months at a time. But these injections can be harmful to tissues and bones, so they shouldn’t be used more than three times a year.

Viscosupplementation: These injections of a gel-like medication (hyaluronates) may supplement the fluid that lubricates and nourishes cartilage. This is approved for treatment of knee osteoarthritis.

Surgery: Knee and hip replacement surgery may help if all other treatments have failed. Grand View Health offers board-certified orthopaedic surgeons who can help you decide whether surgery is an option for you.