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Understanding Osteoarthritis

Healthy knee joint and unhealthy painful knee joint

Many Australians suffer from osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease that’s often referred to as “wear and tear” arthritis. In fact, this is the most common chronic condition of the joints. While there is no cure for osteoarthritis, there are many treatments available for pain relief, including physiotherapy.

In this post, we’ll go over everything you need to know about osteoarthritis.

What is Osteoarthritis?

This chronic joint condition occurs when the cartilage or cushion between the joints breaks down. While it can affect any joint, the most common places for degeneration and pain are the knees, hips, lower back and neck, small joints of the fingers and bases of the thumb and big toe.

When the cartilage breaks down, it causes pain, swelling and problems with joint movement. As OA gets worse, the bones may break down and develop spurs, or growths. In addition, pieces of bone and cartilage may break off and float around in the joint. This causes the body to emit an inflammatory response, causing proteins called cytokines and enzymes to develop. These proteins will further damage the cartilage.

Once OA has reached its final stages, the cartilage will have completely worn away, leaving the bones to rub against each other, causing more pain and joint damage.

Common Symptoms and Causes

The most common symptoms include stiffness, especially first thing in the morning, and pain. After extended activity, some joints may visibly swell.

While there is no specific cause for OA, it is believed that factors like being overweight, injury, overuse and genes are among the reasons for this condition. To diagnose Osteoarthritis, your doctor will look at your medical history and conduct a physical examination, often followed by lab tests, x-rays and an MRI.

Osteoarthritis Treatment

OA is a long-term disease, so there is no cure, but treatment can manage symptoms. The goals of osteoarthritis treatment include:

  • Managing pain, stiffness and swelling
  • Improving mobility and flexibility of joints
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Getting enough exercise

Get Moving

When you’re in pain, moving is the last thing on your mind. Nevertheless, managing OA well involves physical activity. A gentle exercise class or a walk around the block can help to reduce your pain and maintain a healthy weight.

It is also important to strengthen the muscles around the OA-affected joints, as this will ease the strain on the joints, thus reducing pain. Your physiotherapist can help you come up with range-of-motion exercises to reduce stiffness and to maintain and improve joint flexibility. Your physio may also suggest aerobic exercises to help improve your stamina and energy levels while reducing excess weight.

Physical Therapy

By seeing a physiotherapist for osteoarthritis pain, you can reap the benefits of a range of treatment options. They can show you how to properly use your joints, provide you with heat and cold therapies, range-of-motion and flexibility exercises and even assistive devices. 

Contact Power Physiotherapy today for an osteoarthritis treatment plan in Perth. We can help you manage your symptoms and prevent them from worsening.