Osteoarthritis is a painful condition affecting the joints and their mobility. It is most likely to be present in the knees, hips, fingers, or big toe joints, and is more common after the age of 40 or if you have suffered a previous injury.

An estimated 2.2 million people in Australia suffer from osteoarthritis. Let’s take a closer look at this condition and what treatment is available.

Symptoms

The most obvious symptom of osteoarthritis is pain and stiffness in the affected joint. It may also be difficult to move, appear larger than normal, or be swollen or tender from time to time, or you may hear a grating sound when you try to move it.

If you have osteoarthritis in one or both of your knee joints, you will find walking — particularly uphill — painful, and it may be difficult to straighten up your leg.

For people who have osteoarthritis of the hip, you might have difficulties using your hip joint to get in and out of a car, for example, and be affected by pain in the groin or hip region.

If you have osteoarthritis in any of your hand joints, performing day-to-day tasks as simple as writing or using keys can prove challenging.

In all cases, symptoms can range from mild and intermittent to more severe and life-limiting.

Causes

Osteoarthritis develops when the cartilage surrounding your joints wears down. This leads to swelling, pain, and issues with mobility in the affected area. Bony growths may also develop, causing discomfort and pain.

Risk factors

There are a number of different factors behind developing osteoarthritis:

  • Age: The older you are, the more likely you are to develop the condition.
  • Being female: You are more likely to develop osteoarthritis if you are a woman.
  • Previous injury: If you’ve had a previous injury in the area, especially if it hasn’t healed properly, you are at increased risk.
  • Other conditions affecting joints: If you have suffered from conditions such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis and your joints have been affected, you are at higher risk of developing osteoarthritis.
  • Family history: It is believed that osteoarthritis may run in families.
  • Being overweight: This puts a strain on your joints and can lead to osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis treatment

Because osteoarthritis is a long-term condition, it can’t be cured as such. But it can be successfully managed in a variety of ways.

If your symptoms are mild, you may find that gentle exercise and losing weight help to alleviate them.

If you have osteoarthritis in your feet, knees, or hips, wearing special supportive footwear can help too. There are also devices available such as braces that support your joint and alleviate some of the pain.

For people with more severe symptoms, painkillers prescribed by your doctor may be necessary, or even surgery to repair or replace a joint.

Another effective treatment for osteoarthritis is a physiotherapy and exercise program. This can help soothe pain, improve the way joints work, and boost the strength of muscles around joints such as hips and knees.

Special exercises target the areas affected by osteoarthritis, preventing the need to undergo surgery.

The osteoarthritis exercise and care program offered by MGS Physiotherapy gives people living with this condition the tools to manage it successfully and live as full a life as possible.

On your initial appointment, your therapist will carry out an assessment of how your hips or knees are working, then tailor an exercise program to suit your specific needs.

Over the course of several sessions, you will learn how to perform these exercises at home, and you will be supported by regular reviews to check your progress.

You will also receive advice on lifestyle changes to complement your exercise program.

If you’d like to know more about becoming empowered to manage your osteoarthritis through our program, contact our friendly team.