What is osteoarthritis and how can I treat it?

With World Arthritis Day approaching on 12th October I thought I would raise awareness of the most common type, which is osteoarthritis. Other arthritic conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, will be covered in future articles.

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a common condition, particularly in the over 45’s, that causes pain, stiffness, grinding and/or swelling in the joints. It can affect any joint in your body, but is most common in the spine, neck, hips, knees and hands.

Wear and Tear’, or ‘Wear and repair’?

Osteoarthritis (OA) used to be commonly known as ‘wear and tear’. It is part of the normal ageing process, and was originally thought that over time continuous use of the joints would wear the cushioning (ie cartilage) of the joints.

Research has shown, however, that it is a much more complex process. When the cartilage is getting worn, our body is trying to heal and repair itself. It does this by causing inflammation to protect the joint, and our body can even form new bone. 

You can have ‘good’ and ‘bad’ days

The ‘wear and repair’ process doesn’t happen constantly, but normally occurs in episodes. It is this process that can cause pain and stiffness in the affected joints. Therefore the pain should not be constant, and the pain may not worsen in intensity. Some days you may have no pain at all.

How can I improve my arthritic symptoms?

The management of osteoarthritis is similar for all joints. Even if osteoarthritis only affects the smaller joints in your body this advice will be useful for you.

It is good to exercise

Seeing the symptoms above, it may seem controversial to exercise. However general exercise and strength training are beneficial. By keeping our muscles strong it helps to protect our joints, which reduces arthritic pain. As part of my services I offer advice on what exercises you can and which ones to avoid or adapt. I also offer rehab programmes tailored to your requirements. I will go at a pace that suits you to make sure you get the most benefit out of them.

Exercising is good for weight management, and being a healthy weight can really help the weight-bearing joints in the body, such as the hips and knees.

Stretching is also useful

A combination of stretching and strengthening is key for arthritis management. Stretching helps to improve the flexibility of your joints, and reduces joint stiffness. I will help guide you so you understand what stretches are most effective for you, and adapt them as needed. We will go through them together to make sure you are confident with the stretches.

Osteopathy can help

When an osteopath mobilises the joints it is a type of treatment that moves the joint in a controlled way. Mobilising your arthritic joint(s) improves the quality and range of movement in your joint, so your joint may feel less ‘grindy’ and you feel more flexible. I also work on mobilising the non-arthritic joints too. This helps to take the pressure and strain off the arthritic joint. When you are less flexible in your joints your muscles can stiffen up, so osteopaths use a variety of advanced massage techniques to help the affected muscles.

Talk to your GP

Sometimes when we have a painful episode we may need additional pain relief. Your local GP can help advise on which pain medications are suitable for you to take during flare ups, and if the pain is more severe they may refer you for other treatment such as corticosteroid injections.

What do I do next?

If you or someone you know has arthritis and you would like to know more about how osteopathy can help you please get in touch by calling 07757 955097 or use the contact form. Alternatively if you are ready to book an appointment you can book online.

Published 30/09/2022