Osteoarthritis is a chronic condition characterised by the breakdown of cartilage that surrounds the ends of our bones. This breakdown results in the bones rubbing together and leads to pain, swelling and loss of movement. Osteoarthritis is the most common reason people will visit their GP in Australia, with over 2.2million people suffering from the condition each year.
At present, there is no known cure for osteoarthritis. Treatment aims to minimise symptoms, increase range of motion, and maintain function and quality of life. While the condition is progressive, research has shown that effective treatment can in fact reverse symptoms completely.
There are numerous treatment options available for knee and hip osteoarthritis, however evidence has demonstrated that education, exercise, and weight control (or reduction if required) are the most effective first line treatments for osteoarthritis. These treatments should be trialed before more invasive treatments, such as injections and surgery, are considered.
Osteoarthritis is a complex and multifaceted condition with many factors affecting one’s pain, some less obvious than others. For example, most people don’t realise that lack of sleep, fatigue, stress and depression can be related their pain. Having a comprehensive understanding of osteoarthritis and addressing all factors that relate to your condition is integral in effectively treating your pain.
Exercise relieves symptoms of osteoarthritis in two ways. Firstly, when we exercise and load our joints, it stimulates synovial fluid, the nourishing and lubricating fluid in our knees and hips, to circulate around the joint. This helps to reduce pain and stiffness in our joints. Secondly, exercise makes our muscles stronger. When our muscles are strong, our joints are better supported, and we are able to more effectively activate our muscles at the right time and with the appropriate force. This allows us to perform movements with better quality and control and in turn, with less pain.
- Weight control (or reduction if required)
Being overweight or obese increases the load and alters the biomechanics of our joints. For people who are overweight, the load on the joint is two to three times greater than the actual amount of body weight applied. This means even a small increase in body weight can affect the load and biomechanics of the joint. Being overweight has also been shown to cause metabolic changes in our body, with a faster breakdown of cartilage. If appropriate, losing weight is important for reducing pain and improving function and quality of life.
Knee and hip osteoarthritis is a complex condition, however research has demonstrated that with the right treatments, people can live happy and healthy lives. All people who present to the Australian healthcare system for osteoarthritis care should be offered education, exercise and weight control (if required) as first line treatments. If you are experiencing osteoarthritic hip or knee pain, book an appointment with at Mend and Bend to have an assessment.
Treatment for Osteoarthritis, GLAD Australia, 2017, https://gladaustralia.com.au/treatment-for-osteoarthritis/