PHYSIOTHERAPY CAN HELP IN THE PREVENTION AND TREATMENT OF OSTEOARTHRITIS
Osteoarthritis(OA) is one of the most common chronic health conditions and a leading cause of pain and disability among adults.
Osteoarthritis is the process of degradation of the Cartledge covering the bones that form the joint surface and this deterioration can progress to the breakdown of the underlying bone surfaces themselves.
Two of the most common joints affected are the knee and the hip joints. Studies vary from the estimate of the prevalence of this condition, but it is agreed that it is very common. It is estimated that from 7 to 28 percent of persons over 50 years old suffer from OA of the knee and/or hip. The common symptoms of OA are pain and stiffness in the affected joint. The pain and stiffness can progress to being totally debilitating.
There are predisposing factors to developing OA that one is unable to change. For example, gender (female), increasing age and family history. But there are several physical factors contributing to OA that one can influence. These factors include a variety of issues that cause unfavourable mechanical/physical stress to the joint. Physiotherapists can help you to identify these risks and to treat them so they do not contribute to joint degeneration. Controlling these issues may prevent your name from being on the long list waiting for a hip or knee replacement.
Unfavourable mechanical joint stress can be caused by previous joint injury of the involved joint or even of another joint. Weak muscles, tight muscles, pain, stiff joints or unstable joints change the loads and shear placed on a joint and can lead to early degeneration of those improperly loaded joint surfaces. Physiotherapists can guide you in your recovery of injuries making sure that you restore your muscle and joint function to its best capacity and thereby reduce harmful loading of joints. Sometimes unfavourable mechanical joint stress happens even without injury. Poor posture and muscle imbalance from repetitive challenging positions ( eg playing catcher) or one-sided activities (eg playing tennis) can overload a joint over time. Physiotherapists can identify these imbalances and advise you on corrective exercises or postures.
Key weak muscles and tight muscles can cause an unnatural overload to a joint. And even a nerve that is compromised can create an imbalance that can contribute to changes in joint forces. A physiotherapist will look for these factors when you complain of joint pain of slow-onset with no previous injury.
OA is referred to as a condition of wear and tear. That makes one think that activity will contribute to the condition. In fact, only very high intensity and very repetitive activity are shown to be a causation factor. Regular daily activity actually helps to prevent OA.
Repetitive joint strain can load a joint to the point it starts to cause tissue break down. Physiotherapists can advise you on less stressful postures at home and at work. And a physiotherapist can teach you alternate ways to perform activities that place less of a load on your joints.
It is true that OA cannot always be prevented. If you do complain of a painful and stiff joint then a physiotherapist can help in the assessment and management of the condition. Physiotherapists are trained in manual therapy techniques and soft tissue techniques that help to restore joint mobility and improve joint biomechanics. Physiotherapists can use electrical stimulation, ultrasound, laser or acupuncture to help reduce pain and promote healing. And physiotherapists can teach you joint saving techniques and proper strengthening and stretching exercises to help maintain your joint health as long as possible ( which may or may not be your lifetime!).
Sadly, even if one is diligent in the prevention and in management of OA, not all joint replacements can be avoided. And if you are one of those who suffer from debilitating degeneration and that joint replacement is the best option, then physiotherapists can direct you in your recovery to achieving a strong, flexible functional joint that gets you moving once again!
So if you are concerned about getting OA, or concerned that you have OA, is it worth a visit to a physiotherapist?? Absolutely it is. A physiotherapist is the ideal professional to seek to advise because physiotherapists are specifically trained to identify physical inadequacies and treat them with therapeutic techniques. Physiotherapy has helped lots of people who thought they were destined to have a lifetime of pain and reduced activity.
***Quick tips for Preventing OA and the Consequences of OA****
- rehabilitate your injuries
- stretch muscles and joints at least once a week, more often if they are tight.
- maintain muscle strength with resisted exercises
- keep active (walking is great for this)
- seek help from a physiotherapist for joint pain and stiffness that does not resolve quickly