Arthritis:
What is it and what you can do about it

By Physiotherapy Student Georgia Isaacs

Osteoarthritis is one of the most common chronic conditions in Australia. As reported by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1 in 5 Australians over 45 years old have osteoarthritis.

WHAT IS OSTEOARTHRITIS?

Osteoarthritis (OA) is described as the degeneration of cartilage within a joint, where two bony ends meet. Cartilage allows our bones to move smoothly against one another and also plays a role in absorbing shock, particularly at the hip and knee where OA is most commonly developed. OA can also affect other joints within the body including the hands, spine and ankles.

WHAT DOES ‘BONE ON BONE’ MEAN?

A reduction in cartilage means there is less space between the two bony ends in a joint. This can lead to poorer shock absorbing ability for the bones, which may cause pain, swelling and stiffness at the joint. These symptoms may then impact on a person’s ability to carry out everyday activities including work and household tasks, overtime decreasing their quality of life.

WHAT CAUSES OSTEOARTHRITIS?

There are many factors that may increase the progression of OA, including but not limited to:

      • Age: 36% of adults over 75

      • Gender: 3 in 5 people who have OA are female

      • Body weight

      • Previous joint injuries

      • Inactivity: movement = healthy cartilage

      • Large amounts of repetitive loading tasks e.g., kneeling, squatting

HOW CAN A PHYSIO HELP?

First, know that you are not alone and as mentioned above, physiotherapists see a large number of clients with OA. You can book in an assessment with one of our physios if you are struggling with these symptoms.

 

From lots of research on the condition, we know that exercise combined with education is the most beneficial conservative treatment for osteoarthritis.

Exercises for OA can come in many different forms, but strengthening the Quads, Gluts and Calves are most important as they are our biggest shock absorbers. When our Cartilage is wearing out and losing its ability to absorb shock our muscles need to take on a greater role.

Exercise has been shown to decrease pain, increase mobility and improve the quality of life of people with OA. Exercise also helps to slow the progression of OA through movement and loading of the joints, increasing healthy nutrients to the cartilage.  Low impact exercise is important to start and cycling and Pilates are great options.  We run Pilates classes in the clinic.

I CANT EXERCISE IT HURTS TOO MUCH

Another great form of exercise for patients with OA is hydrotherapy. In the pool, the body weight being placed upon your joints is reduced due to the buoyancy of the water. This can be a great starting point if you are experiencing high levels of pain and swelling completing land-based exercises.

We offer hydrotherapy classes at Bluewater Leisure Centre run by physiotherapists, who once again can guide you in creating an exercise program to best meet your goals.

I DONT KNOW WHETHER TO GET A KNEE REPLACEMENT

Surgical management of OA through total knee and hip joint replacements are also common, however are elective surgeries, meaning it is the patient’s decision to go ahead with the surgery. These surgeries require extensive physiotherapy afterwards, to get maximal function from the new joint.

 

These surgeries require consultation with a surgeon and aren’t something that can be arranged by a physiotherapist. However, our physiotherapists can explain what would be involved with different forms of management.  

Heres Georgia to explain a bit about Osteoarthritis:

If you are reading this and are feeling unsure about what to do, feel free to get in contact with our clinic and speak with one of our physiotherapists further regarding your options.

Let us help you get back to doing what you love!

Book An Appointment

Come and have a chat with one of our physiotherapists to see if we can help improve your health. Book online or call the clinic on (03) 5232 2400.

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