Osteoarthritis and Keeping Your Joints Healthy
Did you know that arthritis resulting from injury and aging (also known as osteoarthritis or OA) is something that affects more than 10% of Canadians?
Given that OA is quite common, we wanted to share some important information regarding osteoarthritis in this blog post.
What is Osteoarthritis and what are the symptoms?
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease known to be a cause of joint pain and stiffness. If arthritis gets severe, it can eventually lead to a decline in function (Villafañe, 2018). Some common symptoms include:
- Joint Pain
Many OA sufferers will eventually opt to have a joint replacement surgery. So, it’s no wonder that a great deal of time and resources have gone into finding effective treatments for OA.
Am I at risk of OA?
Your risk of developing OA is based on a number of factors, some that are fixed like:
- Previous Joint Injury
And others that can be modified including:
- Body Weight
Since obesity impacts our joints’ abilities to load properly, body weight is actually the most significant modifiable risk factor for knee OA (Hunter and Eckstein, 2009).
Another extremely important factor in preventing and managing OA is building and maintaining muscle strength. Think of the muscles surrounding a joint as supporting structures – the stronger the muscles are, the more supported the joint.
That’s why physical activity is still the best non-pharmacological treatment for this disease.
Could physical activity make OA worse?
There are different types of physical activity and not all of it will reduce your risk of developing OA or help to ease symptoms. Some repetitive high-impact activity has actually been shown to increase the risk of OA development. However, vigorous low-impact exercise has not been linked with the development of osteoarthritis (Hunter & Eckstein, 2009). In fact, in a 2015 Cochrane review, the authors found evidence that this type of exercise led to a number of great benefits:
- Reduced Pain (at least in the short term up to 6 months)
- Improved Physical Function
- Improved Overall Quality of Life
They estimated that these benefits were comparable to the effects of taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Fransen et al, 2015).
What kind of exercise will help?
Regular low-impact movement is what helps build stronger bones, muscles, tendons, and cartilage (Hunter & Eckstein, 2009). So, weight-bearing exercise is extremely important, especially for women, who are at a higher risk of developing bone loss.
Participating in low-impact and strengthening activities can actually help protect you against the development of OA. Plus, regular weight-bearing exercise helps with flexibility, maintaining strength, and it promotes weight loss – even more great reasons to make sure you’re staying active.
And, there are lots of great options for low-impact activity! Just make sure you choose one that you enjoy, because it’s a lot easier to stick to an exercise program long-term if it’s fun for you. Here are a few examples of low-impact activities that we recommend:
- Swimming & Aquatic Exercise
- Elliptical Machine
Try signing up for a class with a friend or taking a break from the hustle and bustle of your day to get into the rhythm of swimming. Whatever your style, the most important take-away is to find an activity that keeps you motivated and moving.
As physiotherapists we are highly trained healthcare professionals who help people prevent injury in addition to treating acute and chronic injuries. And we’d love to help!
Book an appointment with one of Innovation Physical Therapy’s experienced physiotherapists by calling one of our 6 clinics located throughout Edmonton and Sherwood Park including Riverbend, Meadowlark, Belvedere, Namao, Sherwood Park or our newest clinic in West Henday.
MacDonald, K. V., Sanmartin, C., Langlois, K., & Marshall, D. A. (2014). Symptom onset, diagnosis and management of osteoarthritis. Statistics Canada.
Villafañe, J. H. (2018). Exercise and osteoarthritis: an update. Journal of exercise rehabilitation, 14(4), 538.
Hunter, D. J., & Eckstein, F. (2009). Exercise and osteoarthritis. Journal of anatomy, 214(2), 197-207.
Fransen, M., McConnell, S., Harmer, A. R., Van der Esch, M., Simic, M., & Bennell, K. L. (2015). Exercise for osteoarthritis of the knee. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (1)