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What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint condition affecting weight-bearing joints such as the hips, knees and ankles, as well as the hands and spine. In the initial stages pain occurs in the joints at the beginning of and after activity, but as the condition progresses pain may be experienced during movement and even during rest.

Arthritis is ‘wear and tear of the joint surface. The joint surface we are born with is smooth and friction free. With wear and tear, or injury, the surface gets rough and there is friction then between the two surfaces when we move.

Factors that may increase the likelihood of developing arthritis include

  • Having a previous injury.
  • Being overweight
  • Family history.
  • Postural Type and how you move your body habitually (day to day)

Your symptoms may include:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness or reduced range of movement
  • Swelling

How can we slow its progress?

It is important to keep the joint well lubricated “juice it up” by the correct type of movement and not to compress it too much.

Joints in the body are surrounded by a capsule containing lubricating fluid called synovial fluid. This fluid is squeezed through the joint with joint movement and provides nutrients to the joint surfaces. With movement the joint is lubricated and provided with nutrients, this slows down degeneration. 

We need to exercise, but to the point we avoid swelling. When swelling occurs arthritic joints attract more fibrous changes and the swelling causes pain and limits us exercising. Fibrous changes grow into the joint like spider webs; these get thicker and thicker if we do not regularly move the joint. Fibrous contractions contribute to joint stiffness, as do bony outgrowths (called osteophytes) from the joint margins seen on X-Ray. Osteophytes further limit movement. With the correct type of movement fibrous contractions do not form so much.

Bone grows according to the stress placed on it. If there is more compression placed on a joint, over time and with wear and tear, osteophytes form. With even loading of the joint achieved by balancing the muscles around a joint, stretching and correcting posture, osteophytes may not form so quickly. Weight reduction reduces compression on the joint.

What can Physiotherapy Do?

treatmentPhysio can treat inflammation in a joint, and mobilise and stretch a stiff joint.

Physio can improve your biomechanics, i.e. how the joint moves, how you move, thereby reducing wear and tear on a particular area of the joint.

Physio can educate you how to care for your arthritic joint with exercises; both strengthening and stretching. Strengthening is important as often with pain the muscles waste away.

Most importantly the joint should be moved regularly through its full available range of movement.

Some forms of exercise that are helpful for arthritis are Swimming and Cycling as they are non weightbearing and good for fitness and weight loss.  Pilates and Yoga are also helpful.

Yoga helped me! Yoga therapy is also excellent for managing arthritis.

Yoga moves the joints through their full range of movement stimulating synovial fluid providing nutrients to the joints and taking away waste products. It is a low impact exercise, yet requiring strong muscular work to strengthen around joints, without causing further damage. Yoga is not just about flexibility, as many people think, it is about strength, balance, alignment and muscular control. It is a proven to be an antidote for joint and muscular pain.

Gentle exercise in the morning can set you up for your day and contribute to a sense of wellbeing and a positive outlook. A positive mindset goes a long way to reducing pain.

On a personal note….”I damaged my knees skiing 18 years ago while competing in a Freestyle event and was told I would need major surgery to reconstruct it (take a wedge out to realign it). I took up yoga and my knee gives me very little trouble now, despite being arthritic. I have been skiing since and skied like I always did, well almost! (with a brace on or knee taped for stability). I am flexible, have good balance and good strength around my knee because I practice Yoga regularly.” Anna-Jane


Here at Physio Body and Sole we treat patients with arthritis, tailoring an exercise program (not just yoga) to your needs.

Yoga classes are designed by physiotherapists with specific goals in mind like knee alignment, spinal alignment, foot mobility for example. A yoga program can be put together for what ever joint needs exercise.

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