Managing Osteoarthritis (OA)
What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a chronic condition characterized by the breakdown of the joint’s cartilage. The breakdown of cartilage causes the bones to rub against each other, causing stiffness, pain and loss of movement in the joint.
How common is it?
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis and affects 1 in 10 Canadian adults.
There are two types of OA – primary and secondary. Primary osteoarthritis is generally associated with aging and the “wear and tear” of life. The older you are, the more likely you are to have some degree of primary osteoarthritis. Secondary osteoarthritis, in contrast, tends to develop relatively early in life, typically after a specific cause, such as an injury or obesity.
Why is early treatment for OA so important?
OA tends to get worse over time as the cartilage wears away. Although there is no cure, with the right treatment you can take control of the disease and keep your joints as healthy as possible for as long as possible. The main goals of treatment include:
• Controlling your pain.
• Improving your ability to function.
How can I manage it?
Surgery, medications, and injections may be indicated for some OA sufferers, but for non-drug treatments, try the following:
- Exercise! It’s important to remain physically active despite any initial discomfort you might feel when moving after being stationary. Exercise keeps joints moving, which helps them stay lubricated. It also builds strength in the muscles surrounding the affected joint, so they can support it. Both aerobic and strengthening exercises are helpful, especially water-based activities, such as swimming or aqua-fit classes. Your exercise program should also include stretching to restore flexibility in the joint, as well as exercises that increase or maintain the joint’s range of motion to keep movement through the joint and increase lubrication. Tai Chi is another good option!
- Walking Aids, Knee braces, Insoles, special footwear, and other assistive devices may be recommended by your physiotherapist.
- Weight Loss or Maintenance will reduce stress on hips and knees.
- Acupuncture has been shown to help with arthritis pain. Along with acupuncture, healthy food choices and supplements may be recommended by your Naturopathic Doctor (ND).
- Heat (warm shower, hot packs, heating pads) or Cold/ice packs can relieve pain.
- Massage Therapy and Chiropractic Care will also help with managing
- arthritis pain.
How can Massage Therapy help?
- Studies show that regular use of Massage Therapy leads to improvements in pain, stiffness, range of motion, hand grip strength and overall function of the joints.
- Massage relaxes and stretches the muscles surrounding the joint, increasing the range of motion in the joint as well as the flexibility.
- Massage therapy has a soothing effect on the nervous system, which decreases your perception of pain and lowers anxiety.
- Massage lowers stress hormones and improves mood and sleep!
- Your massage therapist can help recommend heat and cold treatments and remedial exercises to assist in managing OA.
- Massage will release tension in muscles that may be overused due to compensating for pain in the arthritic joint.
References and for more information:
Written By: Judy Gerber-van Vliet, RMT