Arthritis (Osteoarthritis)

What is osteoarthritis?

This is the most common form of arthritis. This occurs when the “cushioning” in the joints, called cartilage, starts breaking down. This then causes the bones to rub together. The exact causes are still not fully understood.

What are the risk factors?

- Increasing age

- Obesity

- Previous joint injury

- Overuse of the joint

- Weak muscles

- Genetics

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptoms are:

- Sore and stiff joints after inactivity or overuse

- Stiffness after resting, that goes away with movement

- Pain that is worse after activity or towards the end of the day

Initially the pain may be manageable and come and go without affecting your day to day activities. Some people’s symptoms never progress past this early stage, but others may experience an increase in the severity and intensity. 

How can physiotherapy help?

Your therapist will not be able to do anything about the root cause of the problem – degenerating joints. He/she will, however, be able to assist in the following ways:

- Management of pain and inflammation

- Release of shortened soft tissue structures (in response to the tender joint)

- Correction of muscle imbalances through strength exercises and stretches

The last point is the most important in managing this condition. Muscles that are functioning at their optimum length and strength will support the affected (and all) joints correctly, therefor reducing the load on those joints. Good, balanced movement mechanics may slow down or even halt the degenerative process.