Osteoarthritis – what role exercise has in relieving your pain

28 Jul, 2020

Osteoarthritis is the most common lifestyle disease in people older than 65 years. 30% of people aged 50 and above report hip/knee pain.

I recently participated in the GLAD (Good Life with oseteoArthritis Denmark) program which is an exercise-based program to help people who have pain and disability associated with osteoarthritis. In this post we will talk about what osteoarthritis is and how we as health professionals can use exercise and education to help people manage this and improve people’s quality of life with this chronic disease.

What is Osteoarthritis?

  • A disease that affects the whole joint and is the most common reason for not being active as people age.
  • Osteoarthritis is not a ‘wear and tear’ or ‘bone on bone’ disease it affects the entire joint.
  • Osteoarthritis – is an imbalance between loading on the joint a structural changes and can be influenced by: muscle weakness, lifestyle factors (sleep, diet, weight), age, sex, psychological factors (stress, depression etc) and beliefs (fear, negative thoughts etc)
  • Articular cartilage – smooth surface on either end of the bone that allows the joint to slide easily when moving and absorbs shocks and distributes load. Articular cartilage can be nourished through moving and taking weight (e.g. walking)

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis:
• Pain with weight-bearing and at rest
• Stiffness, particularly in the morning or after prolonged periods of sitting
• Reduced range of movement
• Red hot and swollen joints
• Fatigue (tiredness, lack of energy)

How can Gen Physio help with osteoarthritis?

What we know from the evidence is that people in Australia do not adequately trial the best first treatment for osteoarthritis. Exercise and weight management have the most evidence in improving your pain and level of disability and should be the first line of treatment rather than surgery. As physiotherapists, we have the appropriate knowledge and skills to guide you and provide education and help develop and exercise-based program that will help improve your strength, mobility and decrease your pain.

Additional treatments guided by your physiotherapist can include:
• Shoe inserts/orthotics
• Taping/ braces
• Dry needling/acupuncture
• Walking aids
• Soft tissue massage or TENS (electrical stimulation)
Note: These additional treatments should only be in adjunct to an exercise and weight management program and not the sole source of therapy from health professionals.

How does exercise help people with osteoarthritis?
• Being inactive increases our risk of at least 35 chronic diseases including osteoarthritis
• Exercise is important for osteoarthritis as it improves joint range of motion, improves stability and joint function, helps you move better, helps improve joint confidence and it provides your cartilage with an appropriate load to keep your joints nourished and healthy

# Tips and Tricks for people with Osteoarthritis
• Stay active (daily exercise) find things you enjoy and aim to do 30mins daily
• Avoid sitting for too long try and get up and move every 30-60mins
• Do strengthening/resistance exercises for your thigh, hip and trunk muscles
• Pain does not equal damage. Pain is a normal part of exercise when it is in an acceptable range
• Increased pain from exercise should go back to normal or pre-exercise level within 24hrs. As physiotherapists we can help teach and modulate your pain levels to ensure you get the most out of your exercises.
This post provides some brief information about what osteoarthritis is and how exercise can be involved in improving your pain levels and quality of life. If you would like to know more about osteoarthritis, here are a few useful links and resources: GLA:D Australia https://gladaustralia.com.au/; Arthritis Australia https://arthritisaustralia.com.au/types-of-arthritis/osteoarthritis/

What to do now?

If you, a family member or a friend are suffering from osteoarthritis give us a call at Gen Physio, we have a friendly team of professionals that are dedicated to changing and improving the lives of our clients. All our clinicians are mobile and come to your own home to conduct an examination. Give us a call on 1300 122 884 to book a consultation today.

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