Osteoarthritis is the most common arthritis condition which can occur at any age but usually starts after the age of 40. Often previous sporting injuries, and in some cases certain occupations, can place extra load or stress on joints and therefore increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis later in life. For example an ACL rupture of the knee has been shown to increase the likelihood of developing osteoarthritis in this joint at a younger age with increased prevalence.
What is Osteoarthritis?
You may have heard the term wear and tear bandied around in terms of joints, but what does this actually mean to the health of that joint. Cartilage lines the surface of the bones that make up the joint. In a normal healthy joint, the cartilage works as a shock absorber and for providing smooth surfaces between the bones, which allows us to move freely with good movement and no pain.
In the early stage of osteoarthritis, the cartilage starts to thin and then roughens. This process can continue to advance to the point that the breakdown starts to expose the bone and leave it unprotected. This can result in symptoms such as a loss of smooth movement, pain and stiffness.
With the cartilage process breaking down, the bone itself can start to change shape causing the development of bony spurs. These spurs can again further restrict the smooth movement of that joint and cause dysfunction to the soft tissues surrounding the affected joint.
Some of the common areas that are affected by osteoarthritis are the neck and shoulders, lower back, hips, knees and base of toes and thumbs.
What can you do about it?
Although there is no cure for osteoarthritis there are several ways to help control and manage the symptoms of this disease. Nutrition, strength & conditioning exercises and medication will all play a major part. As physiotherapists we are in the ideal position to help you manage your joint symptoms. We can work with you to desensitise structures around the joint with physiotherapy techniques and provide individualised exercises programs that incorporate both strength & conditioning exercises and general aerobic activity.
Exercise has been shown to help with the management of pain and to improve the overall quality of life in those with osteoarthritis. For example, cycling is generally a great way to manage some knee symptoms – it keeps the joint moving and the muscles surrounding the joint strong, as well as providing a level of pain management. Swimming or aquatic exercise offer another low impact cardio based option – beneficial for those suffering from lower back pain associated with osteoarthritis as well as hips, ankles, feet, or shoulder and neck pain.
The design of a resistance conditioning program is a great way to maintain strength around the associated muscle groups, add mobility and function. It will also provide valuable balance input that can help in the prevention of falls or development of other injuries.
Need some help?
If you are unsure of what you could be doing to help manage your osteoarthritis then we would be more than happy to help assist you with this and to help continue with your quality of life. Contact us for an appointment.