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Osteoarthritis and how we treat it

For many of us, we will experience or know someone close to us who experiences joint pain. After all, it is common as we age that our joints experience some form of wear, tear and degeneration over time. One common form of joint degeneration is osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis is characterized by joint tenderness and pain, swelling and inflammation, as well as joint stiffness. It can also be classified as mild, moderate or severe depending on the severity of your symptoms. Another way to grade it is by getting an x-ray, which can show the level on bone wear and tear.

As a physio, the most common question is how can we delay the onset or prevent osteoarthritis and what can we do if we do have it so we can still live happy, healthy and pain-free lives.

It is important to note, that the treatment for osteoarthritis has different phases depending on the severity or grading as mentioned above. Mild to moderate arthritis can respond very well to conservative treatments like physiotherapy and anti-inflammatory medications, which are non-invasive, where as moderate to severe forms of osteoarthritis may require more invasive forms of treatment that can range from cortisone injections, arthroscopy to clean out the debris and bone scarring to having a total joint replacement such as a total knee replacement. Our goal of physiotherapy is to delay or prevent the use of invasive treatments for as long as possible.

So you might be asking, “what does a physio do for osteoarthritis?” There a 3 key pillars we encourage people to consider when dealing with osteoarthritis:

  1. Strengthening the muscles around the osteoarthritic joint. Strengthening the muscles around the joint, whether that be your knee, hip or shoulder provides more muscular stability and support for the joint itself when we do a task. This could be greater strength in hip and glute muscles so we can walk more easily or greater strength in our rotator cuff and shoulder stability muscles so we can perform cleaning or throwing tasks as part of our sport more easily.
  2. Hydrotherapy or water-based exercises, especially when combined when doing in a warm pool of 33-35 degrees celsius can have some benefits in that it warms up our joints and also distracts them or reduces the impact within the joint due to the flotation and buoyancy of the water.

3. Discussing weight-loss with a dietician and your doctor. If you are above average weight, it can be helpful to talk to your doctor about potential weight-loss. Extra weight on the frame means extra weight on your joint, particularly relating to osteoarthritis in your lower limb (hip, knee and foot). Reducing your weight even by a little can be beneficial to the point where don’t experience joint pain during daily and recreational activities.

If you have osteoarthritis and need help today reach out to us! We are here to help!

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