Many are diagnosed with osteoarthritis (OA) every day. Causes of arthritis are variable and sometimes onset is unknown, but we know that advancing age increases the likelihood of OA diagnosis, occurring in over 50% of individuals aged 65-75¹.
So, what is OA? Osteoarthritis is a progressive inflammatory pathology affecting moving, and most often weight-bearing, joints¹. It occurs from degenerative changes within the joint such as deterioration of the cartilage and formation of new bone which accounts for the well known “bone-on-bone” description. OA typically effects the hips, knees, thumbs, and often the spine.
What can you do about it? For moderate to severe cases, it is best to seek rehabilitation services for a full assessment and specific treatment which may include modalities and manual techniques to tame inflammation to improve tolerance to mobility, specific exercise to target weakness, and specific education to maximize your abilities. However, there is one component that can help in nearly all cases…exercise!
The cartilage surrounding the hips and knees is avascular. The lack of blood flow limits the means of movement of nutrition to keep the joint healthy and is accomplished through joint movement and osmotic forces through the cellular components¹.
Imagine a wet towel. At rest, the absorbed water remains in the towel. When you press the towel, the water is released. Now imagine your knee. When you squat down and bend your knee, you push the “water” through the joint.
Unfortunately, general aging does result in the loss of specific substances, such as chondroitin sulfate, which impacts the balance of the joint environment and its ability to draw in specific nutrients. This makes movement and exercise all the more important!
Weight-bearing exercises are crucial in strengthening programs and increasing joint mobility: squats, lunges, walking, etc. Non weight-bearing exercise can be incorporated to increase the strength of the joint if weight-bearing activities are intolerable. Increasing muscle strength improves
the stability of the joint and relieves the ligaments and bones from the taking the brunt of the work.
Physical therapists can start you on a individualized program, teach you how to manage flare ups, and prep you for success! Research shows that conservative care can help prolong the need for joint replacements and surgical intervention.
Mild case? Just now noticing some symptoms? You would benefit from a wellness program! Starting any mobility or strengthening program early will help to prevent or slow the progression of OA.
References: A clinical approach to geriatric rehabilitation. 4th edition. J Bottomed, C Lewis. 2020. Pages: 41,228