By Quinton Caulfield, Chartered Physiotherapist
What is arthritis and who does it affect?
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis in the UK, affecting around eight million people. It most often develops in adults who are in their late 40s or older. However, it can occur at any age as a result of an injury or be associated with other joint-related conditions, such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis initially affects the smooth cartilage lining of the joint. This makes movement more difficult than usual, leading to pain and stiffness.
Once the cartilage lining starts to roughen and thin out, the tendons and ligaments have to work harder seriously limiting day-to-day life, for example making getting out of bed, sitting down or climbing the stairs an arduous task.
The most commonly affected joints are in the spine, knees, hips, and hands.
There are a lot of myths surrounding OA. Firstly that OA is just a consequence of getting old. It's true that the incidence increases significantly with age, but it's not an inevitable consequence that we can do nothing to prevent and there are lots of ways of restoring joint movement and function.
The second and one of the biggest myths is that when people are using a painful joint they are causing further damage. Not only can you exercise with osteoarthritis, but safe, low-impact exercises can lessen the pain and improve other symptoms. If you don’t have osteoarthritis, exercise can reduce your risk of ever getting it.
The third myth is that it is widely believed that nothing can be done for OA. Although we can't yet rebuild cartilage, a number of interventions have been proven to improve quality of life including education on what and what not to do, hands-on physiotherapy, and tailored exercise.
Finally, when a person is diagnosed with OA, they may worry that it is inevitable that they are going to need surgery. A small percentage of people may require surgery at some point in their lives however, our goal with our patients with OA is to help them maintain a normal, active lifestyle, and to improve their symptoms without the need for surgery.
Some of the main approaches that I use to treat OA include education and advice of your condition and day to day living. Some small changes in your daily routine can make a big difference. An exercise program specific to your individual needs will improve the areas affected as well as your general health and mobility. I also use specialised hands on treatment techniques to help relieve pain and stiffness and to encourage better movement of the joints affected.
The thing to remember is that if you have been diagnosed with OA, it doesn’t mean that you have to live with the pain and stiffness. A course of hands-on physiotherapy will help to reduce or completely eradicate your symptoms, enabling you to lead a more active, healthy lifestyle.
Not sure if physiotherapy would help you? Get in touch with the clinic to arrange a free telephone consultation with one of our physiotherapists, where they will be able to give you some free advice and discuss the best plan of action for you.