Osteoarthritis is the most common cause of arthritis. It can affect any joint in the body, however commonly affects the spine, knees, hips and hands. The process of arthritis includes inflammation of the tissues, damage to the bone and cartilage (cushioning between the bones), and bony spurs called osteophytes forming around the joint. It can occur at any age however generally occurs in those older than 40, particularly if they have a history of joint injury such as a knee or hip injury. Being overweight or having a family history or osteoarthritis can also be contributing factors.
Symptoms usually come on gradually, over months or years, and include;
- Pain and stiffness
- Clicking or grinding sensations
- Difficulty with day to day activity such as climbing stairs (knees), opening jars (hands/wrists), prolonged walking (hips)
Osteoarthritis is usually diagnosed based on your symptoms, as well as a physical
examination by a GP or physiotherapist. Physiotherapists can also assess contributing factors which can be addressed through treatment. X-rays can also be useful in diagnosis, however do not always correlate with the level of disability or pain. Other tests will often be completed such as blood tests, to rule out other forms of arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis, and other conditions.
Many people believe that surgery is the only option for osteoarthritis, however this is not the case. Whilst surgery may be required in severe cases, a period of conservative management involving physiotherapy will almost always be undertaken first. In many cases this conservative approach can actually help to prevent the need for surgery. Conservative management may include weight loss, a specific exercise program provided by a physio, strengthening, physical activity, pain management strategies, assistive walking devices and sometimes shoe insoles. Following assessment, our physiotherapists at Seville Health can tailor a treatment program based on your needs to best manage your condition.
Physiotherapy may include;
- Targeted exercise program based on which joint is affected and your current level of disability. Your physiotherapist will assess the degree of impairment and devise a program for your individual needs. This will commonly include mobility and stretching to reduce stiffness, and a strengthening program to improve the muscle strength around the affected joint to better support it
- Manual therapy such as soft tissue massage, joint mobilisation techniques, electrotherapy. It is important to note that these forms of treatment will not ‘cure’ arthritis, but will simply assist in providing symptomatic relief
- Education regarding self-management techniques, physical activity, the disease process
- Advice regarding conservative versus surgical management. If we believe surgery may be indicated, physiotherapy can assist in both pre-operative and post-operative rehabilitation to enhance your recovery
Osteoarthritis can be a debilitating condition; however many people have good outcomes and lead a fairly pain-free and active lifestyle once they are provided with the correct advice and management plan. To find out more about how to manage your osteoarthritis contact our physiotherapists at Seville Health today; managing osteoarthritis in the Yarra Ranges.