Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common condition, affecting approximately 2.1 million Australians. OA is commonly explained to people as “wear and tear” affecting joints. It is characterised by thinning of the protective lining of the joints (cartilage), leading to joint space narrowing and the formation or osteophytes or bony spurs. OA can affect any joint but are most commonly seen in the knee, hips, big toe and fingers. I see many people with OA struggle with activities of daily living, so let’s talk about how you can help manage your condition.
Let’s start with the basics first. In knee OA, the cartilage between the joint surfaces of the thigh bone (femur) and shin bone (tibia) is worn away. The bones at either side of the cartilage start to rub and become thicker. The joint capsule that surrounds the joint secretes excess fluid, causing swelling. The most commonly reported symptoms of knee OA are joint stiffness, pain, swelling, or even a sensation that the joint is “grinding”, “creaking” or feeling like the knee “gives way”.
So what can I be doing to manage my OA?
Maintaining knee range of motion and strength is essential to be able to perform everyday tasks. You will need to perform daily exercises to maintain movement in your knee, such as bending and straightening.
It is important to keep your muscles that surround the knee joint strong to maintain stability and to off-load the joint itself. Exercises that strengthen the muscles in your thighs, such as step ups and squats, are ideal.
Keeping fit and healthy!
Maintaining your cardiovascular fitness is important for your overall health in addition to maintaining a healthy weight. Weight gain is a key modifiable factor that contributes to OA. Pain may affect how and what you do for exercise. High impact exercise such as running, places a large amount of force through the joint and may aggravate your symptoms. However, exercises such as walking, swimming or cycling are recommended as low impact exercise alternatives. Your Physiotherapist will help find the best exercise program for you.
Pain is a common symptom of OA. It is important to get this under control to maintain function and to be able to stay mobile! Heat and cold packs can be used to manage your symptoms. I would recommend that you speak to your GP about a suitable pain management for you. In some cases, your Physiotherapist or GP may request imaging or a scan. This is used to determine the severity of your OA, to rule out other conditions, and to see if further treatment is required such as joint replacement surgery.
If you are experiencing joint pain, I would love to chat with you personally about your knee. Just enter your details in the fields below & I’ll be more than happy to discuss with you further how we can help find the best management for you.
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(Please keep in mind, these are general guidelines for the majority of our patients but it is important to consult with your doctor or physiotherapist first and make sure you have a plan tailored specifically for you).