Osteoarthritis is the most common non-communicable disease in older adults, but can also affect individuals as young as 30 years of age.
International clinical guidelines recommend patient education, exercise and weight loss as first line treatment for osteoarthritis.
If you’ve been diagnosed arthritis in your spine, hip, knee, shoulder, or other joint, you probably want to know what is needed to relieve pain and slow down its progression. Conservatively, this can be done through improving the strength, stability and mobility to affected joints and surrounding muscles, decreasing further wear and tear from daily living activities.
To achieve these goals, it is important to understand the types of strategies needed:
Joint Mobility (Maintain or Increase Range of Motion)
Arthritis can make one experience joint stiffness. Physiotherapy can help improve joint motion by mobilizing, bending and straightening it. Progressive improvements motion of a joint can make a significant difference. For example, gentle passive accessory glides to joint surfaces of arthritic knee (done by physio), and getting it to bend / straighten 10 more may help one get in and out of chairs comfortably.
Targeted Muscle Strengthening to Support Arthritic Joint
When arthritis cause joint cartilage to wear away, there can be painful friction between the joint’s bones. This painful friction can be reduced by strengthening specific muscles that supports affected joint. A skilled physiotherapist can help identify physical impairments and teach you how to take charge, teach strengthening exercises to help improve joint stability and strength.
People with arthritis often have poor balance control due to muscle weakness, poor joint function and mobility. It is also important to not just strengthen but also work on balance in your treatment plan. This could include changes to walking distances, speed, surfaces / terrain and gradient to reduce risks of falls.
Posture modification can take stress off arthritic joints. There are helpful ways to adjust posture and put less stress on joints when sitting, standing, and walking; home and work environment. For example, adjusting the position of your car seat, modifying work station, can put less stress on spinal, and lower limb arthritic joints to make daily routine better.
Joint Assistive Devices
Canes, walkers, braces, crutches, splints, and shoe inserts may be helpful to help take pressure off arthritic joints depending on the severity and relevance. Knowing when and how to use them can help reduce injury risk, pace activity and relieve pain. For example, a walking cane may not be needed around the house, but helpful when walking longer distances or doing errands. Know how to properly fit and use certain assistive devices is helpful towards fostering functional independence.
A skilled physiotherapist can help tailor a combination of these strategies above for your condition to manage your pain and improve disability.