Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, especially among older people. However, younger people also suffer from osteoarthritis as a result of excessive wear and tear of joints. It can be painful and depressing. There are many treatment options available but research shows that exercise is one of the best treatments for the problem.
What is Osteoarthritis ?
Osteoarthritis is a joint disease that mostly affects the cartilage. Cartilage is the slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones in a joint. A healthy cartilage allows bones to glide over one another. It also absorbs the shock of physical movement. Osteoarthritis of the spinal vertebra is referred to as spondylosis, most commonly occurring in the neck region (cervical spondylosis) and low back region (lumbar spondylosis). In osteoarthritis, the top layer of cartilage breaks down and wears away. When this happens, the bones under the cartilage begin to rub together causing pain, swelling, and loss of motion of the joint. Over time, the joint may lose its normal shape. When it occurs in the spine, the narrowing may cause nerves to be 'pinched', causing pain. Small bone spurs called osteophytes may also grow on the edges of the joint. This is a result of the body trying to hold the joint together from excessive movements. The body thinks that the joint is wearing out due to the excessive movements isolated to a specific joint, so it grows these spurs in an attempt to better hold it together. Bits of bone or cartilage may break off and float inside the joint space causing more pain and damage. The spurs may also press on to a nerve when growing on the spine, again causing pain. Osteoarthritis can occur in any joint though it most often occurs at the hands, knees, hips or spine.
What causes Osteoarthritis ?
The exact cause of the disease is still unknown. However it is believed that it is a result of a combination of factors, including the aging process, joint injury and stress on the joints from certain jobs and sports activities.
- Cartilage wear and tear due to our daily activities may remain unchanged over time. But our body's ability to repair them will gradually decrease as we age.
- Joint stress is a common reason when osteoarthritis occurs in younger people.
- Conditions such as poor posture and being overweight can cause an excessive amount of stress to be placed on a particular joint, leading to abnormal wear-and-tear.
What are the symptoms ?
- Joint pain and limited movement.
- Stiffness, particularly early morning stiffness.
- Joint swelling.
- Deformity of joint.
There are many treatment options available for osteoarthritis eg. analgesics, Intra -articular injections, arthoscopic debridement of torn cartilage,joint replacement but the researches shows physiotherapy and exercise is one of the best treatment which is safe, non-invasive and free from side-effects.
How Physiotherapy can help
Physiotherapist assesses and treats biomechanical problems that may exacerbate the pain and loss of function.Physiotherapy treatment includes: Manual Therapy: Mobili-sation and manipulations improve mobility of joint and reduce pain.
Exercise help by
- Improving strength of muscles and stability around joint.
- Improving joint lubrication and nutrition.
- Maintaining or increasing movement.
- Restoring muscle balance.
- Improving circulation.
- Improving poor posture.
- Maintaining ideal body. weight or reduce weight.
Electrotherapy includes various thermal, mechanical, electromagnetic agents. used to facilitate tissue healing, increase soft tissue extensibility. Electrical stimulation directly blocks transmission of pain signals along the nerve and promotes release of endorphin hormone which is natural pain killer produced by body.
How you can help yourself
- Avoid over-stressing joints.
- Avoid jerky/sudden movements.
- Don't overload joints.
- Take care with lifting.
- Watch your weight.
- Improve your body alignment to take stress off any arthritic joints.
- Use splints or walking aids as advised.
- Don't overdo activity or exercise.
Dr Sandip Chaudhari, Consulting PhysiotherapistAundh, Pune-07