Osteoarthritis – What is it?
- Is also known as OA or degenerative arthritis and is a group of diseases involving degradation of joints, articular cartilage and bone
- Cartilage is a tissue which lubricates and cushions joints
- OA can have a number of predisposing factors, including: hereditary, mechanical, metabolic and developmental
- OA often results in pain which decreases movement and function, leading to wasting of muscles and weakening of structures.
Our bodies are made up of many things. The fundamental building blocks are our bones.
Where two bones meet together is a joint and the bone at this meeting point is covered in articular cartilage.
This cartilage is very smooth and allows for minimal frictional forces as we move. The cartilage is poorly vascularised (ie has bad blood supply) and therefore when it breaks down it doesn’t heal particularly well.
As we move frictional forces are at play and create microtrauma to the joint surface. This can occur over many years and is called osteoarthritis. It is a degenerative condition, which means it has the propensity to worsen with time.
This degenerative process exposes the underlying bone to stress and strain and this can often result in pain, reducing movement and function and wasting of muscles.
OA is present in about 15% of the Australian population affecting over 3 million people, and is the leading cause of pain and disability in the elderly.
The most commonly affected joints are thumbs, spine, feet, hips and knees.
How to spot an arthritic joint
The joints are often inflamed (hot, red, swollen and painful) and there is often a reduction in movement available or functional capacity. There may also be creaking or crepitus noted during movement.
A simple x-ray can diagnose the presence of arthritic changes.
Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
- Acute pain
- A decrease in function of affected joints
- Stiffness and swelling
- Crepitus or creaking of joints
Hints for self-management
- Activity modification to reduce irritation of affected joints
- A graduated exercise program to increase strength of the surrounding muscles
- Weight management with diet and exercise
- Anti-inflammatory medication
- Research has shown that exercise is one of the most important treatments for OA of the hip and knee.
- Low impact exercises (where there is less impact going through your hips and knees) include water exercise, cycling, walking and strengthening exercises
- Strengthening exercises can be prescribed by a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist
- Braces/supportive devices for affected areas eg knee brace
- Arthroscopy and in the most severe cases joint replacement surgery
- OA affects around 3 million people in Australia, representing about 15% of the population
- OA commonly affects hands, feet, the spine and the large weight-bearing joints such as hips and knees.
- Muscle weakness around an osteoarthritic joint is a common finding
- Diabetes, obesity, injury and inflammatory diseases such as gout can promote the development of OA in joints
- OA is the leading cause of pain and disability in the elderly
- 90% of total hip replacements and 95% of total knee replacements are performed for OA in Australia
- Among the 100 different types of arthritis, OA is the most common
- OA is more common as we age
- Most cases of OA have no known cause and are referred to as primary OA. When the cause is known, the condition is referred to as secondary OA
- Repetitive use of worn joints over time can lead to loss of cartilage
- Inflammation of cartilage can stimulate new bone growth (spurs and osteophytes) which form around the joint (see below)
How can I help myself
Heat and exercise can provide symptomatic relief – so keep moving, but avoid overstressing yourself. Stick to simple activities such as pilates, walking, swimming, cycling or Tai-chi.
You can modify your activities (rest) when the joint is especially inflamed and use supports, bandages and straps to relieve the symptoms.
Diet, weight management and exercise should be encouraged, and anti-inflammatory medication should be discussed with your GP and/or pharmacist.
What are the causes & symptoms of Osteoarthritis in the ankle?
Osteoarthritis may be considered the medical term for joint ‘wear and tear’. It is a degenerative joint disease where the articular cartilage (soft structure on the end of your joints) wears away in parts.
OA often results in pain which decreases movement and function, leading to wasting of muscles and weakening of structures.
Symptoms of OA in the ankle are pain, decrease in function, stiffness and swelling and crepitus or creaking of the joint.
It is associated with increasing age and can result in pain, stiffness, swelling and poor joint positioning. There are different degrees of osteoarthritis and it doesn’t guarantee nor always directly correlate to symptoms.
Possible causes or contributors can include genetic risk factors; previous trauma, injuries or surgeries; age; being heavily overweight; poor muscle control or weakness; poor joint or movement biomechanics; and environmental factors, such as, previous sporting/activity levels, training surfaces and footwear.
At Sydney Physiotherapy Solutions Physiotherapy our highly qualified physiotherapists specialise in the assessment, treatment and prevention of neuromusculoskeletal injuries.
Contact us today – 9252 5770