The short answer is ABSOLUTELY!
What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the result of mechanical and biological events that destabilise the normal process of our joints, cartilage, and subchondral bone (bone just under the cartilage). It involves the entire joint including the articular cartilage, subchondral bone, deep muscles, the joint capsule, and other structures. The condition leads to loss of cartilage, damage to the subchondral bone and little bony extra nodules around the joint. It is most commonly characterised by joint pain, stiffness, and functional limitation (think anything that requires bending of knee and hip).
What is the best available evidence for management of Knee and Hip OA?
One of the first line treatment options for osteoarthritis is to address any lifestyle factors that may be contributing to this condition. Addressing things such as sedentary lifestyles, weight loss, education, reduced alcohol consumption, quitting smoking etc. are all evidence based first line care strategies. In terms of weight loss, this will help in a few different ways. The most obvious method is reducing the load placed through the joints, which can sound contradictory when I go into a little more about exercise in general. The second mechanism is that losing weight decreases inflammatory markers in the body, which will help with a decrease in pain, swelling, and stiffness in the affected joints. In terms of alcohol and smoking, this is again related to the bodies inflammation and reducing any foreign toxic influences in the system.
But I’ve been told exercise is bad for my joints and will make it worse!
Actually the opposite is true! The saying “use it or lose it” has never been truer than when it comes to it OA. Bottom line is our joints and muscles need to be moved. Its how we produce that lubricant in our joints called synovial fluid that keeps everything moving smoothly. It’s how our cartilage responds to loads placed upon it through exercise by building back strong and healthy for the next bout. Additionally, our muscles need to be moved to prevent poor blood flow, build up of metabolic waste, muscle fibres bunching up, and in turn muscle tightness. Basically, the more sedentary we are the more apparent the above issues become and make our symptoms much worse.
The body is very adaptable and with controlled loading through various forms of exercise you can prevent OA getting the better of you. Exercises such as resistance exercises will build up our leg and hip muscle strength for more support. Range of motion exercises will help keep our joints and muscles mobile. Controlled loading to strengthen the cartilage in our joints is crucial in reducing the symptoms of knee and hip OA. This, together with the help of a health practitioner to work on treatments that will assist in regaining this full range of motion and reduce pain through some hands on approaches, is a sure fire way to get back to pain free living!
So if you have been suffering from osteoarthritis and not sure what to do next, be sure to book in with a skilled health practitioner such as a physiotherapist. They will get you set up with an individualised treatment program focusing on all the points mentioned above!
Daniel is a physiotherapist at our Mona Vale clinic. He has a particular interest in helping people with knee and hip osteoarthritis and has see great results in dealing with these patients. To book an appointment today, phone 9979 8887