With more than 100 different types of arthritis it’s likely you or someone you know currently, or will at some point, suffer from an arthritic condition. Generally speaking, arthritis is a term that describes inflammation in the joints (arthro refers to joint, itis refers to inflammation).
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis. It affects about one in six Canadians, which is more than all other forms of arthritis. OA is the progressive disease of a joint that leads to a breakdown of joint cartilage, a smooth, rubbery connective tissue that covers and protects the ends of bones, and the underlying bone. If you have ever had a discussion about OA you may remember hearing the phrase “wear-and-tear” to describe the joint degeneration. This is a common misconception. Recent studies demonstrate that OA is simply the body’s failed attempt to repair damaged joint tissue.
To maintain healthy joints, you need a balance between regeneration (building up) and degeneration (breaking down) of cartilage. OA results when a balance is not maintained; it occurs when there is more breaking down than there is building up. Why this happens is unclear. Risk factors for developing OA include:
1. Age: cartilage naturally degrades over a long period of time
2. Gender: females are more likely than males to develop OA
3. Joint injury and inflammation
4. Mechanical stress and excess weight (obesity)
5. Sedentary lifestyle
OA most commonly affects the knees and hips but can also affect other parts of the body such as the wrists, shoulders, toes, and spine. OA affects everyone differently, but common symptoms include joint pain, aching, morning stiffness lasting less than 30 minutes, reduced range of motion in the affected joints, and possible swelling. Symptoms can come and go, but the intensity of the pain likely will increase over time.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for OA as the underlying process cannot be reversed. However, the symptoms can often be relieved or significantly improved and progression of the disease can be slowed through:
1. non-pharmacological lifestyle modifications, such as weight loss/management, exercise, and physiotherapy;
2. pharmacological interventions to reduce pain and inflammation; and, if necessary,
3. surgery for joint replacement.
To keep your cartilage healthy and strong, in attempts to prevent OA, you should participate in regular joint movement and strengthening. Even once OA has set in, therapeutic exercise continues to be a critical aspect in treatment. Regular physical activity replenishes lubrication to the cartilage of the joint and reduces stiffness and pain. Keep in mind it is important to find the right exercise routine, which includes cardio and strengthening, while not irritating your joints.
Physiotherapists can help you find the right exercises and activity to help decrease your pain and discomfort caused by OA while also improving your overall function and health. To make exercising easier, find a way to incorporate your exercises into your daily routine and find activities you enjoy doing. For example, hydrotherapy, such as water walking, aqua fit, and aqua cycling are a great way to increase your physical activity while reducing the load on your painful joints.
If you are starting an exercise program, remember that building strength takes time; try not to get discouraged. Also keep in mind that the OA in your joint likely took many years of stress to develop, so it won’t heal overnight. Slow and steady wins the race.
For more information or to book an appointment call 705-380-3312 or visit the website . Surge Physiotherapy is located at 33 King William Street, Suite 204, in Huntsville. Office hours are flexible with evening appointments available (3x/week). Email – [email protected]
Stephanie is a bilingual, Registered Physiotherapist with the College of Physiotherapist of Ontario and the Canadian Physiotherapy Association who is committed to providing a hands on, personalized approach to physiotherapy.
Stephanie, a native to the Huntsville community, developed a passion for health and wellness during her youth while competing in cross-country running, nordic skiing, and track and field. Stephanie has always had a strong caring nature and fell in love with the physiotherapy profession while volunteering at a physiotherapy clinic during high school and university.
Stephanie continued to build on her passion for health care by attending McGill University and completing her Bachelors of Science in Kinesiology. During her Masters in Health Science of Physiotherapy, completed at the University of Ottawa, she completed internships in orthopaedic clinics, hospitals, home care, and neurology centres.