Osteoarthritis: Physio and Naturopathy Brisbane CBD

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What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis (OA) is one of the most common forms of arthritis seen in the clinic of a Physio or Naturopath. It is a condition that affects the whole joint including bone, cartilage, ligaments and muscles.
 Cartilage is a firm cushion that covers the ends of the two bones, absorbing shock and enabling the bones to glide smoothly over each other. The joint is wrapped inside a tough capsule filled with synovial fluid. This fluid lubricates the cartilage and other structures in the joint and keeps it moving smoothly.
Osteoarthritis can develop at any age but tends to be more common in people aged over 40 years or those who have had joint injuries.

In osteoarthritis, the cartilage becomes brittle and breaks down. Deterioration of cartilage can lead to degeneration in the joint. Eventually, the cartilage can break down so much that it no longer cushions the two bones.
Osteoarthritis may include:
• inflammation of the tissue around a joint
• damage to joint cartilage – this is the protective cushion on the ends of your bones which allows a joint to move smoothly
• bony spurs growing around the edge of a joint
• deterioration of ligaments (the tough bands that hold your joint together) and tendons (cords that attach muscles to bones).

Joints affected by osteoarthritis

All joints can be affected by osteoarthritis. Most commonly, it is the weight-bearing joints that are affected, including:
• knees – sometimes due to an old injury
• hips – older people are most at risk
• spine – in the neck or lower back.
• hands – usually the end finger joints.

Symptoms of osteoarthritis

The symptoms of osteoarthritis can vary from one person to the next. Your symptoms will also depend on which joints are affected.
OA tends to come on slowly, over months or even years. Some of the more common symptoms include:
• stiffness
• joint pain
• muscle weakness.
These sensations are usually worst with activity initially but can be more constant in later disease. These symptoms may affect your ability to do normal daily activities, such as walking, climbing stairs and opening jars. Other symptoms may include clicking noises, grating sensations, or a loss of flexibility in a joint.
Causes and Risk Factors for Osteoarthritis
The cause of osteoarthritis is unclear, but some risk factors have been identified. These include:
• knees: being overweight; having a previous knee injury; jobs involving kneeling; climbing and squatting
• hips: being overweight; having a previous hip injury; jobs involving lifting heavy loads (including farming); a family history of OA
• hands: a family history of OA; repetitive use or previous injuries to the hands; being overweight.

Management of osteoarthritis

There is no cure for osteoarthritis, but the condition can be managed using exercise, weight loss, herbal/nutritional supplements and medications or surgery if necessary.

Osteoarthritis and Exercise
Movement is a very important tool in the management of osteoarthritis. The right type of exercise can help to keep the joints mobile and maintain or improve function. Movement is important as it can:
• maximise the health of the cartilage
• maintain joint movement
• improve muscle strength.
Cartilage does not have a blood supply, so it relies on the synovial fluid moving in and out of the joint to nourish it and remove its wastes. Exercises that involve moving the joints through their range of movement will also help maintain flexibility that is otherwise lost as a result of the arthritis.

Pain associated with arthritis has a weakening effect on the surrounding muscles. However, by undertaking strengthening exercises, muscle weakness can be reversed. Strong muscles will support sore joints.

Talk to your physiotherapist or exercise physiologist about suitable exercises. A variety of exercise that promotes muscle strength, joint flexibility and support, and improved balance and coordination is encouraged. Warm water exercise and tai chi may be suitable exercise programs.  In order to commence a suitable rehab programme, the  Physio or Finch Therapist would thoroughly assess pain, mobility, strength and function. As an example: a graduated program for knee arthritis would commence with a protocol of quadriceps exercises, appropriate stretches and a pre-determined functional goal. A required goal may be distance walked, steps climbed pain-free or the ability to lunge or squat pain-free. Being able to perform a desired activity in a pain-free manner is a great achievement and one that should be at the basis of all treatment for osteoarthritis.
People are often told that osteoarthritis is incurable. Please don’t make that an excuse to do nothing. Be proactive! Build your strength! Improve your technique and never stop moving.
It is important when treating Osteoarthritis to take a whole body view. What are the predisposing factors, the symptoms, and joint damage need to be taken into account when formulating a treatment plan.
The optimal treatment plan will be derived from a range of therapeutic options, such as:
Nutritional advice:
 To help with weight-loss,
 On incorporating anti-inflammatory foods into your diet,
 On a low acid forming diet.
 Foods to improve micro-circulation which increases nutrient supply to the effected joint.

Herbal and Nutritional Supplements:
High quality fish oil supplement,
 Herbs and nutrients for inflammation, acidity, to improve joint mobilty and to help slow down the progression of arthritis.

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