What is osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common chronic condition, whereby the joint in the body’s articular surface gradually breaks down as a result of age-related changes to the body, or in the background of a prior injury. Osteoarthritis can affect any joint in the body, although most commonly it is experienced in the knees, hips, lower back, hands and toes.
This gradual breakdown of the joint cartilage causes inflammation within the joint capsule, causing swelling, redness, local pain and loss of function within that particular joint. For people with knee Osteoarthritis, activities such as crouching or squatting may aggravate, while tying up shoelaces in a person with hip Osteoarthritis may be irritating.
It is essential to understand that Osteoarthritis exists on a continuum, whereby people may have mild Osteoarthritis with small loss of function, while others may have significant Osteoarthritis, severely impacting their quality of life. In this instance, joint replacement surgery may be an option if the person fails to respond to physiotherapy.
FACT – the scan does not determine the severity of Osteoarthritis! What does this mean?
Imaging of people with significant joint ‘damage’ does not correlate to loss of function, meaning that it is essential to treat the person and their goals, and not treat on the basis of the scan!
Risk factors for osteoarthritis
It is well known that the older the person the more likely they are to have Osteoarthritis, although other modifiable risk factors include muscle weakness and obesity, so in essence, the stronger the muscles around the joint, the less load that goes directly through the joint. In relation to weight, particularly in the lower body, the lighter the person (although they still need to be strong), the less load through each joint… For every 1kg of weight loss, it equivalates to 2.2kg less going through each knee joint when walking!
Characteristics of osteoarthritis
PAIN! Generally the morning after a big day of activity, it may worsen with fatigue and may be triggered by changes in temperature.
Loss of movement – this is progressive and may worsen as time goes by, while it may even feel stiffer in the mornings.
Sounds – cracking and clicking within the joint is common while it may be accompanied my swelling within the joint.
How does physiotherapy help with osteoarthritis in patients?
Years ago, Osteoarthritis was believed to be one of those things that was part of life, and not something you could really do anything about (aside from get a joint replacement). These days the research has shown us that there is much you can do to not only prevent Osteoarthritis but also reduce the effects it has on your daily life while living with it. This is where physiotherapy plays a huge part in ensuring effective management of the condition, by providing a tailored rehab plan to strengthen the muscles around the joint, improve movement, as well as guide the patient through the ups and downs of this chronic condition. Not only does physiotherapy improve the patient’s quality of life, by allowing them to do the things they love, but also prevent the need for joint replacements, which only have a certain shelf life before they need to be replaced again (not to mention the cost and invasiveness of the procedure).
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, be sure to book in with one of our many great physiotherapists, where they will be able to assess and treat you in line with your goals, hobbies, and activities that you enjoy most!
About Will Arnel & Primal Physiotherapy
Will graduated from the University of Melbourne completing his Doctor of Physiotherapy. Will’s drive to see the best out of his patients stems from working in high performance and rehabilitation at the Geelong Football Club & the University Blues Football Club. In his spare time will enjoys a quick round of golf, cycling the Yarra & playing cricket in the local competition.