Osteoarthritis – the value of self management and therapy

By Adelaide Women's Physio | April 11, 2018

Osteoarthritis or OA is a degenerative condition of the body’s joints. It occurs most commonly as we age, but even young people can develop osteoarthritis. Primarily weight bearing joints like the hip, knee, ankle and lumbar spine are involved. However any joint in the body can be affected.

Osteoarthritic changes in joints have been shown to occur in 90% of the western human population, with degenerative joint change being shown to occur by the time many people reach 40 years of age. Therefore it should not be considered an old person’s disease.

Healthy joint movement will rely on the cartilage covering joint surfaces. This cartilage is necessary to allow the joint to move smoothly and in a fluid process. Loss of joint cartilage or damage to this smooth lining is a common finding in osteoarthritis.

The characteristics of this condition are joint pain, swelling, inflammation, muscle weakness, loss of joint range, joint noise or sounds, stiffness and joint instability.

To improve outcomes it is important to understand that you need to actively participate in your care. Only relying on pain medication and surgery to reduce symptoms and improve physical function is not supported by research. Even severely damaged joints should be treated conservatively in the early management stage of this condition.

It is now recognised that better health outcomes occur when the individual is encouraged to focus on weight reduction, diet and nutrition, exercise and education.

Physiotherapy assessment and treatment is a conservative approach in your osteoarthritis management plan where reducing pain and swelling, as well as restoring joint movement and optimal physical function are vital.

Physiotherapy treatment may consist of:

  • Mobilising joint/s and related soft tissue structures of muscles, tendons and ligaments
  • Electrotherapy modalities
  • Prescription of movements and exercise that is specific to your own requirements to enhance muscle strength, coordination, flexibility and balance
  • Dry needling
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Education on postural awareness, adjusting daily activity and self-pacing
  • Education on how to use joint supports, splints, braces or aids to support joint movement, improve range, reduce pain
  • Education on how to modify your home and work environment with ergonomic chairs, cushioned mats to stand on in daily work areas to decrease pain and fatigue

Evidence strongly supports the importance of a regular home exercise program in reducing osteoarthritic flare-ups. Being compliant with your management plan is so important. When the exercise program is discontinued because you are feeling better or your physical function has improved, flare-ups are common. Maintenance physiotherapy visits every few months will greatly assist in maintaining your joint movement and provide the time to review, update and reinforce your management plan. While maintenance is an ongoing process, research shows the overall medical costs are reduced for the individual because acute flare-ups are controlled. Therefore the quality of your life is enhanced with physiotherapy.

At Physiotherapy for Women our Health in Balance approach will help you develop a physical activity program that respects your osteoarthritis and preventing symptoms.

Please phone or email us for further information.

 P: 08 8443 3355
E: admin@physiotherapyforwomen.com.au