I recently had a conversation with someone who asked “what the heck is osteo-arthritis anyways”. Osteoarthritis has many different names including OA, degenerative joint disease, osteoarthrosis and degenerative arthritis. As some of those names allude to OA is degenerative process that progresses with age and wear and tear. The process is essentially a breaking down of the cartilage or surfaces in the joint. This leads to pain, stiffness and swelling. If you are in your 70’s you have some degree of arthritis in your joints.
Remember that just because you have arthritis does not mean that it has to be painful or limit your activity. There is no reversing arthritis but it is possible to minimize the symptoms. As a physical therapist, I see that patients who maintain their strength, flexibility and weight manage their symptoms better. Additionally if a joint is flared up it is possible to decrease inflammation and resulting pain.
Ideas to minimize your OA pain:
1: Motion is good for your joints. You may notice that your pain is worse after sitting for awhile or upon waking. This is because inactivity can actually promote inflammation. So low impact motion will keep inflammation from accumulating and actually reduce your pain.
2: Stay strong. Your joints rely on your muscles and tendons to stabilize the joints. So it is extremely important maintain your strength. Exercises performed in a non-weightbearing fashion are tolerated better than weight-bearing exercises.
3: Maintain a healthy bodyweight. Studies have shown that for every pound of weight loss 4 pounds of force is reduced on the knee. Additionally, weight loss is correlated to improvement in function.
4: Seek help. If your arthritis is limiting your ability to enjoy your life and/or do your job, consult a medical professional. From physical therapy to surgery there is a whole spectrum of conservative to invasive procedures that may benefit you.
As a physical therapist, I offer several things that will benefit a person suffering from osteoarthritis. Often manual therapy can help improve your flexibility by stretching the connective tissue around the joint. This improved tissue flexibility decreases stress on the joints. Additionally, osteoarthritis pain is often decreased by specific exercises that can be prescribed.
If you are suffering from arthritis pain you would benefit from physical therapy. Also feel free to contact Siskiyou Physical Therapy if you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment. We regularly help patients manage their arthritis pain and put off the need for surgery.
Jon Hill, DPT, Licensed Physical Therapist with Siskiyou Physical Therapy
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