What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common lifestyle disease in individuals 65 years of age and older, but can also affect individuals of any age.
OA is a degenerative disease that affects the joints, specifically the articular cartilage (which covers the end of bones) which gradually wears down and becomes fragile.
Articular cartilage lubricates the joint and acts as a shock absorber to help disperse load more evenly throughout the joint and reduce friction so that the joint can move smoothly.
Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for the disease however, there are ways to help manage the symptoms.
Physical activity and exercise are considered key components for the management of hip and knee OA where insufficient physical activity can lead to:
- Loss of muscle strength
- Joint pain
- Reduced functional capacity (e.g. falls)
- Increased risk of other comorbidities
There is often a lot of associated fear with OA and excessive loading of the joint will worsen the condition of the joint, however, it is important to be aware that some joint discomfort is NORMAL – particularly with weight/load-bearing exercises.
If pain and/or discomfort lingers for an extended time afterwards, this may be a sign of overexertion, where we expect joint pain should return to “normal” levels within 24 hours after exercise.
Exercise prescription for hip and knee OA is very dependent on the individual and their presenting symptoms.
We use exercise as a key management tool for OA as it nourishes and lubricates the articular cartilage through loading of the joint.
Lucy likes to use the analogy of your articular cartilage being a sponge; when you load the joint (via movement, walking, exercise), the sponge is being squeezed and will release synovial fluid into the joint which nourishes the joint and keeps the joint healthy.
When there is no load, the synovial fluid is sucked back up into the sponge and the articular cartilage no longer has the necessary lubricant.
If you need help managing your Osteoarthritis, Lucy is your go-to!