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  • Writer's pictureRicardo Vargues - Fisioterapeuta

Osteoarthritis: Understand this degenerative disease and how physical therapy can help.

Updated: Apr 18, 2023


Osteoarthritis of the hand
Osteoarthritis of the hand.

Osteoarthritis is a condition that affects the joints, causing pain and stiffness. Also known as osteoarthrosis, it is one of the most common forms of arthritis, and affects millions of people worldwide. In this article, I will talk more about osteoarthritis, including its symptoms, causes, and treatments.





Symptoms of osteoarthritis


Symptoms of osteoarthritis include:

  • joint pain;

  • stiffness (more pronounced in the morning, after waking up);

  • growth of bone spurs (also called osteophytes) around the joint;

  • difficulty moving (loss of flexibility and mobility);

  • crackling or popping sounds in the joint (crepitus).

These symptoms usually worsen over time and can affect any joint in the body, but are most common in the hands, knees, hips, and spine.

Osteoarthritis of the knee
Osteoarthritis of the knee


Causes of Osteoarthritis


Osteoarthritis is caused by the wear and tear of the cartilage that covers the joints. Over time, the cartilage can wear down or break, leaving the bones exposed and causing pain and inflammation. Factors such as advanced age, family history of osteoarthritis, joint injuries, and obesity can increase the risk of developing the condition.

Treatments for Osteoarthritis


The treatment for osteoarthritis depends on the severity of symptoms. For mild cases, lifestyle changes such as weight loss and regular exercise may be sufficient. For more severe cases, medication for pain relief and inflammation, physical therapy, and as a last resort, surgery may be necessary.



How can physical therapy help with osteoarthritis?


Physical therapy is a non-surgical treatment option that can help improve the symptoms of osteoarthritis. With the help of physical therapy, it is possible to postpone the need for surgical interventions. It should be noted that people who have undergone physical therapy sessions before surgery have more favorable conditions for a faster and more efficient recovery after this invasive intervention. A good example of surgeries for osteoarthritis include total knee and hip replacements.

The goal of physical therapy for osteoarthritis is to relieve pain, improve mobility, and strengthen the muscles around the affected joint. With a personalized program of exercises and manual therapy techniques, I can help you improve your condition. Some common exercises include stretching and muscle strengthening exercises to improve flexibility and stability of the affected joint.

Physical therapy may also include the use of support devices such as orthotics to stabilize the affected joint and reduce pain. In addition, as needed, I provide guidance on the proper use of support equipment such as canes, crutches, or walkers.

In summary, physical therapy can be an effective option for relieving the symptoms of osteoarthritis, improving mobility, reducing pain, and strengthening muscles. If you have osteoarthritis, schedule an evaluation now to analyze the available treatment options and how I can help you manage your condition.



Prevention of Osteoarthritis


Preventing osteoarthritis is possible by adopting healthy lifestyle habits. Regularly exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding a sedentary lifestyle, having a balanced and healthy diet, and caring for posture are fundamental measures for preventing osteoarthritis.

Physical activity is one of the main forms of prevention of osteoarthritis. Exercise strengthens the muscles, improves joint flexibility, and reduces impact on the joints. In addition, regular physical activity helps control weight, reducing the burden on the joints.

Maintaining a healthy weight is also critical for preventing osteoarthritis. Excess weight overloads the joints, increasing the risk of wear and tear and injuries. Moreover, excess body fat increases inflammation in the body, which can worsen the disease.

Avoiding a sedentary lifestyle is another important measure for preventing osteoarthritis. Sedentary behavior promotes loss of muscle mass and reduction of joint flexibility, increasing the risk of injuries and joint wear and tear.

A balanced and healthy diet is essential for preventing osteoarthritis. The diet should be rich in vitamins and minerals (which help strengthen bones and joints) and fibers (which help reduce inflammation in the body). It is also important to avoid excessive consumption of processed foods and saturated fats, which promote inflammation in the body.

Finally, caring for posture is essential for preventing osteoarthritis. Inadequate posture overloads the joints, increasing the risk of wear and tear and injuries. Therefore, it is important to adopt correct postures during daily activities and when exercising.

FAQ's


What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that affects the joints, causing pain and stiffness.

What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis?

The symptoms of osteoarthritis include joint pain, stiffness, and difficulty moving.

What causes osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is caused by the wearing down of the cartilage that covers the joints.

How is osteoarthritis treated?

Treatment for osteoarthritis depends on the severity of symptoms and may include lifestyle changes, medication, physical therapy, or surgery.

Can physical therapy help in the treatment of osteoarthritis?

Yes, physical therapy can be very helpful in the treatment of osteoarthritis, helping to alleviate pain, improve joint mobility, and increase muscle strength.

Can physical therapy prevent the need for surgery in patients with osteoarthritis?

In some cases, yes. Physical therapy can help delay the need for surgery and improve the patient's quality of life.

Is physical therapy suitable for all stages of osteoarthritis?

Yes, physical therapy can be beneficial at all stages of osteoarthritis, from early stages to more advanced stages of the condition.

Conclusion

Osteoarthritis is a chronic disease that affects the joints and can cause pain and physical limitations. Physical therapy is an important ally in the treatment of osteoarthritis, helping to reduce pain, improve joint function, prevent the worsening of the disease, and prolong the need for surgery as long as possible.

In addition to physical therapy, prevention of osteoarthritis is fundamental and involves adopting healthy lifestyle habits, such as regular physical exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding sedentary behavior, having a balanced diet, and maintaining good posture.

With the adoption of preventive measures and proper treatment, it is possible to live with osteoarthritis comfortably and healthily, improving the quality of life and reducing physical limitations. Contact me for an evaluation, and together we will find the best treatment approach for you.



Ricardo Vargues | Physiotherapist




References:


1. American College of Rheumatology. Recommendations for the medical management of osteoarthritis of the hip and knee: 2000 update. Arthritis Rheum. 2000; 43(9):1905-1915.

2. Jevsevar DS. Treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee: evidence-based guideline, 2nd edition. J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2013; 21(9):571-576.

3. Fransen M, McConnell S, Harmer AR, Van der Esch M, Simic M, Bennell KL. Exercise for osteoarthritis of the knee. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015; 1:CD004376.

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