Osteoarthritis affects millions of Australians, but only a small percentage are benefiting from osteoarthritis physiotherapy – a therapy that uses tailored exercises to drastically reduce arthritis pain.
Research shows that exercise is the second most effective treatment (after medicine) for reducing pain and improving function in osteoarthritis patients.
In this article, we cover everything you need to know about physiotherapy for arthritis. Read on to find out what arthritis is, how to know if you have arthritis, and exercises to reduce arthritis pain
Arthritis fast facts
- By 2030, it is projected there will be 5.4 million Australians with arthritis.
- Arthritis cost the health system $5.5 billion in 2015. This will rise to $7.6 billion by 2030.
- Arthritis accounts for 8% of the total burden of disease and injury in Australia
- Children get arthritis too
- Arthritis is the leading cause of chronic pain and the second most common cause of disability and early retirement due to ill health in Australia.
- 52,000 people (aged 15-64 years) unable to work due to arthritis
- Extra welfare costs and lost tax revenue due to early retirement due to arthritis cost $1.1 billion in 2015
Arthritis is currently the second most common cause of disability in Australia and is the leading cause of chronic pain and early retirement.
Arthritis affects 3.9 million Australians (or 1 in 6 people) and is especially common in older people however children get arthritis too.
Arthritis is a term used to refer to the symptoms of a range of disorders.
Common arthritis symptoms include:
- Joint pain
- Loss of flexibility and movement
There are more than 100 conditions which can result in arthritis, the most common forms are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout.
Do I have osteoarthritis?
The symptoms of osteoarthritis vary from person to person. The most common signs are:
- Joint pain and tenderness
- Stiffness of the joints
- swelling of the joints
- muscle weakness, which may feel like the joint is unstable or will give way
- a grinding sensation or clicking noises in the joints
- a feeling that the joint might lock
- loss of mobility.
You may also find that symptoms worsen from overuse or underuse.
For example, many people find their symptoms worsen after doing lots of activity such as walking or gardening, or after periods of inactivity such as when getting out of bed in the morning or after sitting for long periods.
If you suffer from one or more of the above symptoms a physiotherapist can assess and diagnose your condition and put together a treatment regime that suits your ability, lifestyle and health goals.
Osteoarthritis: The most common form of arthritis
Osteoarthritis mainly affects people over the age of 40 but it can develop at any age.
Osteoarthritis can affect any joint in the body but it usually occurs in large joints that support the weight of your body such as the hips, knees and lower back.
It can also occur in the hands, particularly at the base of the thumb and the end joints of the fingers and in the big toe.
It is a condition that affects the whole joint including bone, cartilage, ligaments and muscles.
Symptoms of osteoarthritis may include:
- inflammation of the tissue around a joint
- damage to joint cartilage, this is the protective cushion on the ends of your bones which allows a joint to move smoothly
- bony spurs growing around the edge of a joint
- deterioration of ligaments (the tough bands that hold your joint together) and tendons (cords that attach muscles to bones).
Osteoarthritis can be a result of:
- an injury to the joint, such as a broken bone or torn cartilage. This could have happened years before arthritis appears;
- being overweight, this puts extra strain on weight-bearing joints and they may become worn under the pressure
- jobs involving repetitive movements, such as heavy lifting, kneeling and squatting
- family history, if your parents have or had arthritis, especially in the hands, you are more likely to develop it.
Can the symptoms of my osteoarthritis be treated with physiotherapy?
Whilst there is no cure for osteoarthritis, the good news is that there are many treatments available to manage the symptoms from osteoarthritis.
When it comes to arthritis, pain and other symptoms can be made much worse from too much rest – you need to move it or lose it.
A physiotherapist has extensive knowledge regarding musculoskeletal injuries and diseases and for this reason and excellent choice of healthcare provider to assist you manage your osteoarthritis.
Your physiotherapist can help you with many aspects of your osteoarthritis management.
Many people with osteoarthritis say that learning about their arthritis and what they can do about it gives them back a feeling of control over their lives and their health.
Recent research has shown that understanding how pain works and how you respond to it can help you prevent pain controlling your life.
The physiotherapists at Aspire Physiotherapy Bunbury have excellent skills and qualifications to explain the pain to you and can teach you coping strategies to manage your pain better.
5 physiotherapy exercises to reduce osteoarthritis pain
It is understandable that whilst in pain, exercises for your osteoarthritis is the last thing on your mind.
Besides the discomfort, you may worry that exercising the affected joint could injure the area further and cause more pain.
However, research overwhelmingly shows that people with osteoarthritis can and should exercise.
Exercise is considered by far the most effective treatment besides medicine, for reducing pain and improving function in osteoarthritis.
Each of the following types of exercises plays a role in maintaining and improving the ability to move and function:
1. Range of motion or flexibility exercises
Range of motion refers to the ability to move your joints through the full motion they were designed to achieve.
Range of motion exercises include gentle stretching and movements that take joints through their full span.
Doing these exercises regularly can help maintain and improve the flexibility in the joints.
2. Aerobic/endurance exercises
These exercises strengthen the heart and make the lungs more efficient.
This conditioning also reduces fatigue and builds stamina.
Aerobic exercise also helps control weight by increasing the amount of calories the body uses.
Aerobic exercises include walking, jogging, bicycling, swimming.
3. Strengthening exercises
These exercises help maintain and improve muscle strength.
Stronger muscles offer your joints more support and significantly reduce the pressure on your joints.
4. Hands-on treatment modalities
We use a combination of hands-on treatment modalities to help with the management of osteoarthritis. This can include:
- Mobilisation of the affected joint to optimise the range of motion in the joint;
- Massaging the muscles surrounding the joint to reduce any associated muscle tension;
- Taping and bracing of the joint (more common for arthritis symptoms in the hand or fingers);
- Ultrasound and electrotherapy, some people indicate that this can help reduce their pain in osteoarthritis.
5. Losing Weight
A physiotherapist can give you advice on nutrition as well as exercise to assist in weight loss, if needed we can refer to, and closely work together with, dieticians to target weight loss.
Osteoarthritis is an extremely common condition.
If you think you may be suffering from arthritis, or if you are suffering from osteoarthritis, and you are not sure what to do, or where to go, get in contact with the team at Aspire Physiotherapy Bunbury.
We will provide you with excellent guidance and can help you get your life back on track.
Book your next appointment today