Osteoarthritis is a very common diagnosis which typically occurs in the hip, knee, low back, neck, wrist/fingers and shoulders. Traditionally it has been looked upon unfavourably but research is showing more and more that osteoarthritis doesn’t mean the end of you enjoying your life.
Osteoarthritis is a very common condition causing pain, stiffness, swelling and discomfort about a joint. It is normal degenerative change that occurs within a joint which for some reason has been sped up due to a number of factors. These include:
Although it can be quite disabling initially, the appropriate treatment can make considerable improvements in your quality of life. Arthritic pain, be it osteo- or rheumatoid or any other form, can easily be managed conservatively.
Most osteoarthritic joint pain can and usually does improve with a management plan involving pain medication / anti-inflammatories, a graded, progressive exercise program, and physiotherapy treatment. People often derive benefit within a couple of weeks, with even further benefits noted after 1-3 months.
In fact, the best possible thing for arthritis of joints is to start moving and continue to move in a planned manner on a consistent basis (Brosseau et al, 2017a),** whilst stopping exercising is actually the single worst thing you could do for an arthritic joint. Our joints are made to move. Exercising in a managed, graded manner consistently over time, should reduce your joint pain and stiffness, with general function improving. Types of exercise you could do include hydrotherapy, a joint mobility program, stretching program, strengthening program, aerobic exercise or group exercise classes. Studies show even performing Tai-Chi or Qigong helps improve pain and function to do with arthritis (Brosseau et al, 2017b).*** However, strength exercise seems to be better as it incorporates all of the above.
Physiotherapy treatment can also help provide instant pain relief to help you start your personalised exercise program through many different methods. These include manual therapy, massage, dry needling, stretching and general advice.
Surgery is another option but should be avoided for at least 3 months after trialling the management strategies above. SHould exercise and physiotherapy treatment provide no to limited relief then surgery can help alleviate your symptoms. However, you will need to rehabilitate your joint afterwards.
**Brosseau et al. 2017a. The Ottawa panel clinical practice guidelines for the management of knee osteoarthritis. Part two: strengthening exercise programs. Clinical Rehabilitation: Vol 31, Issue 5, pp. 596 – 611
***Brosseau et al. 2017b. The Ottawa panel clinical practice guidelines for the management of knee osteoarthritis. Part one: introduction, and mind-body exercise programs. Clinical Rehabilitation: Vol 31, Issue 5, pp. 582 – 595.