Osteoarthritis is a disease of the joints that happens as we get older after years and years of moving around. It’s a form of arthritis, and is caused by inflammation, breakdown, and the eventual loss of cartilage in the joints.
Cartilage is the slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones in a joint. Healthy cartilage allows bones to glide over each other, but in osteoarthritis the top layer of the cartilage breaks down and wears away, so the bones of the joint rub together.
Although very common, it’s not necessarily an inevitable part of ageing; people who take active steps to actively manage it have a good chance of maintaining control over their symptoms.
It can affect just about any joint in the body- wherever there is cartilage. For the most part, it tends to affect the patient’s hips; hands; knees, lower back and neck
Osteoarthritis has three main characteristics:
- Cartilage damage
- Bony growths develop around the edge of joints.
- Synovitis or inflammation of the tissues around the joints.
It’s not just a question of wear and tear- there may be other contributing factors, but the fact is that hardworking joints eventually lose their cushioning cartilage, allowing bone to rub against bone. When the joint cartilage erodes, joints become stiff, swollen, and arthritic.
Over time, the joint may lose its normal shape; grow bone spurs or even lose bits of bone as they break off and float around inside the joint space- Ouch!
Who Gets Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is more common among females than males, especially after age 50; it can develop in your forties or even younger as a result of injury.
There are a number of risk factors associated with the condition:
- Being overweight
- Getting older
- Joint injury
- Joints that are not properly formed
- A genetic defect in joint cartilage
- Stresses on the joints from repetitive movement
What are the warning signs?
There are certain warning signs that become evident:
- Stiffness in a joint after getting out of bed or sitting for a long time
- Swelling or tenderness in one or more joints
- A crunching feeling or the sound of bone rubbing on bone.
There isn’t a single test to determine or diagnose osteoarthritis, but doctors use several methods to rule out other problems and diagnose the disease
How Is Osteoarthritis Treated?
Physiotherapy can play a key role in the treatment of osteoarthritis.
The goals of physiotherapy are to decrease inflammation, improve joint range of motion, and strengthen the muscles surrounding the affected joint(s).
The modalities and techniques used by your Portobello Physiotherapists will depend on the area of the body and joints in which you are experiencing osteoarthritis and pain; as well as your age and level of fitness; weight and how long you have been suffering with osteoarthritis.
Treatment must be tailored and customised for you, so that you can work to improve your joint function for the long term.
Stretching and strengthening exercises can help and Portobello Physiotherapy Clinic will also give you a series of exercises to do at home, as well as educating patients about proper exercise techniques and appropriate activities to minimize stress on their joints.
Swimming is a good choice as the buoyancy and warm water help to sooth and support aching joints; building up muscle strength to help support the joints, and stretching exercises are all a good idea to increase flexibility; maintain a healthy weight, and relieve pain.
A heating pad can feel really good on achy joints. Heat applied several times a day can help alleviate pain and relax the muscles and tissue surrounding arthritic joints helping to improve movement and joint function. Remember to keep your heating pad at a low setting to avoid burning your skin.
If you are concerned about Osteoarthritis, call Portobello Physiotherapy Clinic on 01 476 3330.