Osteoarthritis and Pain

 In Exercise Physiology, General, Massage Therapy, Patient Information, Physiotherapy

After being asked many times what exactly osteoarthritis is, I think it’s time to write a blog answering some commonly asked questions and bring forward some recent evidence for prevention and management.

What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a condition that defines the natural changes of the cartilage that line either side of the joint, known as the articular cartilage. As well as damage to this cartilage and inflammation of the tissues in and around the joints, bony changes can often be seen on X-ray, as an indicator of osteoarthritis.

Where is it found?
Osteoarthritis, or OA as it often known, is predominantly found in joints that are heavily used and bear load namely but not limited to our; lower back, hips, knees and hands. Research has found it is the most common joint disorder in the world and in Australia affects nearly 10 per cent of our population most frequently seen in our over 60’s population. There are many causal reasons for OA, the most notable are; obesity and overload to our joints, age, genetics and previous joint damage.

How do I know if I’m potentially suffering from OA?
Diagnosing OA without doing an X-Ray can be difficult as symptoms often vary, hence it is recommended that you consult your physiotherapist or local G.P. for an assessment and if needed, an X-Ray. The variation in these symptoms vary from person to person dependant on a number of factors including the joints affected, the severity, age of patient and ongoing load on the joint. Sufferers however, often complain of joint pain with inflammation and swelling, stiffness, reduction in function and movement as well as a grating sensation in the joint. These symptoms are often noted to be worse in the morning or when the joint/s are cold or surprisingly when there are substantial changes in atmospheric pressure.

How should I manage my Osteoarthritis?
In regard to managing the initial signs and symptoms of OA, I remind patients that early prevention and forward thinking is very important and can often decrease not only the severity, but also the long-term impact of having osteoarthritic changes in our joints. OA management has become a recent topic of discussion with the release of new, high quality evidence. A recent study conducted in Denmark involved nearly 10,000 participants spanning over a two year period implemented a six week program which involved;

  • three education sessions,
  • 2x 60minute neuromuscular control and strengthening exercises per week
  • weight management advice

The participants of the study were able to decrease their pain levels, improve quality of life and were subsequently able to overall reduce the amount of pain medication they were taking. The study found that after the six week program benefits, were still seen up to 12 months afterwards. These results were achieved in significant numbers throughout the participants and should be the first line of management for OA with pharmaceutical interventions, mobility aids, manual treatments as a second line and surgery as the last and final option.

Take home messages:

  • Osteoarthritis affects nearly 10 per cent of all Australians
  • Changes in joints are normal, and don’t always cause pain
  • Physiotherapists can help you manage joint pain and loss of function
  • OA is successfully managed on the front line with consultation to your physiotherapist to provide education, neuromuscular exercises and weight management information from a Dietician.

At Cairns Total Physio, we can assist you in getting back to less pain and more life, with the most up to date practice in Far North Queensland. If you would like assistance with managing your Osteoarthritis, please do not hesitate to contact us on (07) 4051 3252 or book online

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