Osteoarthritis Treatment Options: Things to Start Today
By: Julia Towers, Physiotherapist
Achy, swollen, or creaky joints? Is waking up in the morning feeling like the tin man? These things may be impacting your ability to participate in the activities you love which can be very frustrating! Let’s talk about osteoarthritis and some strategies for managing this common yet pesky condition.
What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage lining of a joint breaks down over time. Normally, healthy articular cartilage protects bones and provides a smooth surface for the joint to glide comfortably. With the wear of the cartilage, the joint can’t move as well as it should causing swelling and pain. Small spurs (called osteophytes) may form, making the joint more irritable.
Osteoarthritis is most common in the knees, hips, lower back, neck, fingers, and toes. Your doctor may start by ordering an X-ray to confirm the arthritic changes, although this is not required to get started on treatment.
You’ve been told you have Osteoarthritis, now what?
I’m here to tell you that there’s more to do than just waiting for surgery. The wait is often long for a joint replacement! There are many things that you can start right away that are beneficial even if you do end up having surgery. But how do we rise above this chronic condition?
Conservative Treatment For Osteoarthritis
Physiotherapy is a great place to start in the treatment of osteoarthritis. This can include education on your condition and various joint protection strategies. Treatment will most likely also include manual therapy to help reduce tension in your muscles and promote mobility in your joints. Additionally, an osteoarthritis treatment plan should always include exercises to help your range of motion, balance, cardiovascular training, and STRENGTHENING! These things may also help with weight management to assist in decreasing load on the joints.
Exercise is the bread and butter of osteoarthritis treatment as the more support and stability we can provide your joints, the less likely your symptoms will stop you from the day-to-day activities that you enjoy.
Examples of great strengthening exercises for your knees
#1: The Bridge
#2: Body-weight Squat
Additional Treatment Options for Osteoarthritis
Sometimes a brace can help in getting you back to your activities as well. At Stride, we offer a variety of options including our Push braces for the thumb, wrist, knee, and back, as well as custom unloader knee bracing through DonJoy. Gait aids like a cane or walker may be recommended in some instances.
There are also a few different injections that can be used, in appropriate cases of osteoarthritis. Here are some of the most common:
- Corticosteroids (ex. cortisone): Which mimic the naturally occurring anti-inflammatory hormone in our bodies. Cortisone can be helpful for short term relief (lasting about 3 months) and managing flare-ups in order to get on with an exercise program, for example, which will yield better long-term effects than the injection itself.
- Viscosupplementation (ex. hyaluronic acid): Aims to lubricate the joint, reduce pain, and allow better movement.
- Platelet-rich plasma (PRP): Injections involve drawing blood from your body and using a machine to separate the platelets from the rest of the blood. This is then injected back into the area of pain to inhibit inflammation, stimulate new cartilage formation, and increase natural lubrication. This would typically be used for moderate osteoarthritis.
Ultimately, I hope you can see that although osteoarthritis is a disruptive condition that can take a toll, there is hope! No matter where you are on your journey with osteoarthritis, one of our Physiotherapists would be happy to work alongside you! Feel free to click here to book an appointment online at our clinic.