What is osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a chronic condition that can affect joints in the body. As many as 1 in 5 people over the age of 45 will be experiencing and seeking ways of managing osteoarthritis.
As we age, the protective cartilage padding in our joints begins to wear away. Without any cartilage, the bones will begin to rub against each other and over time, cause inflammation and degeneration of the underlying bone.
Most commonly, osteoarthritis develops in bones that help us weight bear such as our hips and our knees. However, osteoarthritis can develop in many other joints such as our shoulders, back, neck and hands.
Osteoarthritis begins to cause problems as it limits how well we can function due to pain stiffness and swelling. Although many people can live with osteoarthritis, the nature of osteoarthritis can be seasonal and include flare-ups from time to time, characterised by periods of worsening symptoms.
In this blog we will look at what osteoarthritis is, what factors might lead to it, and we will consider ways of managing osteoarthritis.
Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
Early on, osteoarthritis may present itself as a mild ache within the affected joint. As it progresses, the joint pain and stiffness become more sharp, persisting for longer and becoming harder to resolve.
The flexibility within the affected joint will also begin to worsen over time.
- Osteoarthritis causes pain and stiffness in movement
- Joint pain and stiffness in weight-bearing
- Weakness in muscles and joints
- Stiffness and reduced movement
- Feelings of creaking and cracking within the joints when they move
- Swelling over the affected joints
- Growth of bony nodules around affected joints
- Joint instability
- Worsening symptoms during colder weather
Risk factors that may develop osteoarthritis and joint pain
- People over the age of 55
- People who have worked in jobs where there is repetitive tasks over a prolonged period of time
- People who have worked in more physically demanding jobs that involve repetitive movements such as heavy lifting or squatting
- Those who are overweight
- Those who have a family history of osteoarthritis
- Women are more likely than men to develop osteoarthritis
- People with previous bone or joint injuries that have affected normal joint function
If you are concerned that you may have osteoarthritis, you can go and talk to your doctor for more information.
Based on your history, symptoms and a thorough assessment, you can have your osteoarthritis diagnosed.
Often your doctor may send you for an x-ray to assess any joint injury.
For severe cases, your doctor may send you to see an orthopaedic specialist for further assessment.
Treatment for Osteoarthritis
There is no cure for osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a natural process of ageing and is not reversible.
Practitioners may be able to prescribe you some simple pain relievers and refer you to a physiotherapist to reduce pain and find ways of managing arthritis.
In severe cases of osteoarthritis, joint surgery may be an option to help alleviate symptoms and restore function.
Most commonly, hip and knee replacements are commonly done to replace the affected arthritis surfaces in the painful joint to restore normal joint mechanics and function.
Benefits of Physiotherapy in Osteoarthritis
To help you in managing osteoarthritis, physiotherapy plays a key role to improve pain and returning you to normal function.
Considering the symptoms of osteoarthritis, it may be a common misunderstanding that physical activity will worsen the degeneration within your joints. However, studies have shown that physiotherapy has positive benefits in the treatment and prevention of osteoarthritis.
While the underlying bones cannot be cured, physiotherapy can help to both relieve pain and develop strength and flexibility to prevent the progression and onset of osteoarthritis.
- Management of your joint pain
- Improving on flexibility
- Strengthening of painful joints
- Functional retraining
- Tailored education and advice
Prevention and self-management of osteoarthritis
While osteoarthritis cannot be cured, there are several things that you can do to prevent its onset.
- Regular physical activity: exercise is fantastic for bone and muscle health in the prevention of osteoarthritis and joint pain.
- Physical activity helps to alleviate joint stiffness and improve strength and maintain a healthy weight, all important in helping with pain relief
- Healthy diet: nutritional diets that promote bone health and loss of excess weight
- Maintaining a healthy weight: by losing excess weight, less load and stress is going through weight-bearing joints which will reduce pain
- Topical and oral pain relievers. We recommend consulting your medical practitioner for the correct advice.
If you need help or advice in managing osteoarthritis, contact us at West Pennant Hills Physiotherapy and Sports Injuries Clinic.
We can help with all things osteoarthritis including osteoarthritis pain management, joint strengthening, flexibility, weight loss and functional retraining.
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