Osteoarthritis is very common indeed. In fact, up to half of adults over the age of 65 are affected to some degree! However, other factors like obesity, general health, or taking part in high-impact sports can also play a role, and therefore we also see it in the younger population. Pain, stiffness and loss of function are what patients usually present with - often in knees, hips and spines, but really any joint in the body can be affected.
Commonly thought of as ‘degenerative’ or ‘joint wear and tear’, it is important for patients to know that osteoarthtisis isn’t necessarily a progressive disease, nor does the severity of the pain necessarily reflect how severe the arthritis is on radiographic imaging. Yes, that’s right! Instead, we now know that Osteoarthritis is an imbalance between normal repair and breakdown mechanisms within the joint. This means that considering the greater environment of the joint and the person as a whole is more helpful than solely focusing on the area affected.
Here are a few things you can do to start managing your arthritis:
1. Find a physical activity you love to do
Maintaining physical activity has been shown to be one of the most important factors in managing osteoarthritis. Contrary to what many people think, the right kind of exercise is good for osteoarthritis. Engaging in an exercise program and the right kind of activity helps the joint regulate its fluid content and keeps the surrounding muscles strong. Your osteopath or yoga teacher can advise on what is appropriate, but the key is to find something you enjoy that will keep you motivated.
2. Get some good quality manual therapy
Manual stretching of the surrounding soft tissues and mobilising the joints can be extremely effective in maintaining range of motion and as a measure to reduce swelling and pain, which in turn can allow you to live an active lifestyle. Your osteopath may also advise on self-care techniques such as using heat or cold therapy to ease the discomfort of symptoms during flare ups.
3. Let’s set some goals
Working alongside you, the patient, in a shared decision-making process we look at how to set short and long-term goals that help you manage your pain on a daily basis. This could be as simple as starting a new hobby or returning to work. But the key is to slowly build the level of activity. Too much too soon can see symptoms flare-up unnecessarily. Your osteopathy can help guide you through this.
4. Consider your general health
We know that the anticipation of pain can often be worse than the pain itself. We also know that factors such as anxiety and stress can amplify the perception of pain. Taking a look at things you enjoy doing but perhaps aren’t anymore, or considering new forms of wellness can have a surprisingly strong impact on your pain. Here at Core Clapton we put wellness first and think this should be a priority. We run regular yoga and tai chi classes, and even run a weekly singing class. You can find out more about these by clicking here.
Sluka, K., (2016). Mechanisms and Management of Pain for the Physical Therapist. 2nd ed. New York: Wolters Kluwer Health
Jardine, W., Gillis, C.,Rutherford, D., (2012). The effect of osteopathic manual therapy on the vascular supply to the lower extremity in individuals with knee osteoarthritis: A randomized trial. International Journal of Osteopathic Medicine. 15(4), 125-133
About the Author:
Christa is a registered Osteopath with a background in contemporary dance and yoga. She strives to offer honest advice and practical help so her patients can play a more active part in their treatment both during and outside of sessions. She believes that the patient is the key player in osteopathic care.
Christa is an osteopath at Core Clapton on Thursdays.