What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis (OA) is one of the most chronic, debilitating conditions that will affect most of us during our lifetime whether it is in the hip, knee or another joint. It is characterised by inflammation (swelling, redness and heat) in the joint and deterioration of our articular cartilage, which acts as our lubricant to allow smooth movement of our bones in our joints. It can also lead to formation of new bone (subchondral bone), sclerosis of the current bone and fibrocartilage being formed instead of articular cartilage, to resurface the bone, leading to less effective joint mechanics. End stage OA is referred to as "bone on bone" and this is where the joint may ultimately fail. With that comes loss of strength, painful range of motion and a deformity at the joint may occur.
OA can have a rapid onset and most commonly affects 50-60 year old women. The joint will be inflamed, have pain with load bearing activity or after general exercises/activity. They may have muscle wastage around the joint itself (e.g With knee OA we see a marked reduction in our vastus medialis musculature, which is our quad muscle on the inner side of our knee joint), reduced range of motion (particularly flexion and extension both in the hip and knee joint) and there may be Joint Crepitus present (ie. cracking of your joint as you move through range.
The Osteoarthritis Research Society International has developed guidelines to help practitioners with treatment of OA. Among a comprehensive list of key points that needs to be addressed from their guidelines, specific ones include:
1. Advice and education about OA
2. Referral to Physiotherapy for exercise management
3. Ongoing aerobic/cardiovascular exercise, strengthening and range of motion based exercises.
4. Weight loss will also help improve outcomes if the client is overweight
5. Ask about advice on footwear
The full list of recommendations set out by OARSI can be found at the link below:
Physiotherapy Management and Reducing Your Risk!
Based on the OARSI Guidelines, referral to Physiotherapy to receive the correct exercises, advice and education on OA is a fantastic starting point. This allows you to be given exercises, advice and education to improve your quality of life, reduce the progression of disability that OA can cause in your joints, keep you physically active and reduce your risk of other co-morbidities developing as a result of OA progression and limiting your physical activity levels. It must be an individually tailored program to suit your condition based on your presentation and progression through the OA disease process and what you can and cannot do.
Physiotherapy can help by looking at how you are walking, as our gait pattern can usually compensate for our pain, lack of range of motion and joint deformity and help you improve your biomechanics to try to reduce disease progression.
Don't let OA prevent you from living an active lifestyle! Book in for an appointment with one of our Physiotherapists to allow them to help you to manage your condition.