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Osteoarthritis: How Physiotherapy Can Stop Your Pain

February 13 | 2024
Posted by Erin Mills Physiotherapy

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Osteoarthritis in the knee. Image by jcomp on Freepik

What is osteoarthritis (OA)?

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis. Alternatively, some people call it degenerative joint disease or “wear and tear” arthritis. It occurs most frequently in the hands, hips, and knees.

With OA, the cartilage within a joint begins to break down and the underlying bone begins to change. These changes usually develop slowly and get worse over time. Eventually, it can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling. In more severe cases, it also causes reduced function and disability; some people are no longer able to do daily tasks or work. Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most prevalent joint disease and a leading cause of disability in older adults.

Signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis:

  • Pain or aching
  • Stiffness
    Decreased range of motion (or flexibility)
  • Swelling

Risk factors:

  • Joint injury or overuse—Injury or overuse, such as repetitive knee bending or stress, can cause damage and increase the risk of OA in that joint
  • Age—The risk of developing OA increases with age.
  • Gender—Women are more likely to develop OA than men, especially after age 50
  • Obesity—Extra weight puts more stress on joints, particularly weight-bearing joints like the hips and knees. Consequently, this extra stress increases the risk of OA in that joint. Obesity may also have metabolic effects that increase the risk of OA
  • Genetics—People who have family members with OA are more likely to develop it. Additionally, people who have hand OA are more likely to develop knee OA
  • Race— Some Asian populations have lower risk for OA.

How is it diagnosed?

A doctor diagnoses OA through a review of symptoms, physical examination, X-rays, and lab tests. Furthermore, a rheumatologist, a doctor who specializes in arthritis and other related conditions, can help if there are any questions about the diagnosis.

How is it treated?

There is no cure for OA, so doctors usually treat OA symptoms with a combination of treatments which may include the following:

  • Increasing physical activity
  • Physical therapy with muscle strengthening exercises
  • Weight loss
  • Medications, including over-the-counter pain relievers and prescription drugs
  • Supportive devices such as crutches or canes
  • Surgery (if other treatment options have not been effective)

Osteoarthritis and Physiotherapy:

Physical therapy for osteoarthritis rehabilitation

Physical therapist helping a patient perform exercises for OA. Image by Freepik

Unfortunately, pharmacological treatments are mostly related to relieving symptoms, and there is no drug that is a 100% cure for OA. However, compelling evidence suggests that regular practice of resistance exercises as part of a physiotherapy program may prevent and control the development of chronic diseases, including OA. As a result, physiotherapy-supported exercise may result in improved quality of life of those affected by this disease.

Additionally, anti-inflammatory treatment before physical therapy may also enhance the effects of exercise. Thus, a combination of pharmacologic and physical therapy modalities is recommended for the optimal management of OA. Physical therapy aims to relieve pain, improve joint function, and improve the daily quality of life of those with OA. It is the go-to conservative treatment option for OA due to its effectiveness convenience, and low risk of harmful side effects.

If you are experiencing any such symptoms, our team of qualified physiotherapists at PhysioNow will assist and guide you through your individualized treatment and exercise plan. Book your first appointment with PhysioNow today to start improving your quality of life.

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