Osteoarthritis or OA, is a condition that affects joints. It commonly affects the knee, hip or small joints of the hand; although any joint can be involved. OA in the spine is often called Spondylosis.
The body can cope with a degree of ‘wear and tear’ and is usually very effective at repairing itself. OA occurs when the cartilage of a joint is damaged and the body cannot repair it. This leads to an increase in bone growth as it tries to compensate for the loss of cartilage, often giving an enlarged appearance to a joint. Overlying soft tissues become inflammed and tight leading to stiffness and pain.
OA usually occurs in people between 45 and 75 and is more prevalent in females than males. OA is not a consequence of aging although the incidence does increase with age. 8/10 people over 50 will be affected by OA.
OA affects people in many different ways. OA can cause pain and disability, affecting a person’s ability to work and perform their hobbies. Pain can also affect mood, sleep and relationships.
OA does not always get worse over time – many people do not suffer any increase in symptoms from their initial diagnosis. Severe cases may require joint replacement.
There is no cure for OA. Living with OA means learning to manage your condition. Some simple measures outlined below can help reduce pain and stress on the joints.
There are currently no medications that modify the disease process in OA. Medications are often prescribed to reduce pain and inflammation. There is insufficient evidence for using supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin for OA.
Physiotherapists can advise on other ways of managing pain e.g., using heat or cold or TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation). Current NICE guidelines do not support acupuncture for OA, although some people do find it useful.
Simple measures such as reducing aggravating activities can help reduce pain. Try to continue your normal activities but you may need to do less or incorporate rest days. Small changes can make a difference e.g., don’t overfill shopping bags; use knee-pads when gardening and use cushioned insoles to offer increased shock-absorption when walking. A walking stick can help offload the stress placed upon your joints. Losing weight can also be helpful.
Massage and Mobilisation
Some people feel benefit from hand-on treatment to improve flexibility and relieve pain. This can be discussed with your Physiotherapist.
Some useful links:
0808 800 4050 / www.arthritiscare.org.uk
Arthritis research UK
0300 790 0400 / www.arthritisresearchuk.org
Physical Activity Guidelines www.gov.co.uk
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