If our physiotherapists, at our Auckland physio clinic, had a dollar for every time someone came in and said, “I’ve got arthritis so there’s nothing I can do about it”, we would be in a sound financial position. For years, people have been spouted half-truths, contradictions, and simply false statements with regards to osteoarthritis (OA). What it is, how it progresses and how to live with it. Phrases such as “degenerative changes” or “bone on bone” or “wear and tear” all seem to have a negative impact on people’s perceptions of their own injuries. What most do not realise is that as soon as we entertain this type of language, we already begin to narrow our capability for improvement. Our fear and anxiety are heightened, and this can lead to poorly managed changes in activity. This is where your medial professional has a duty to provide you with sound (and simplified) knowledge on the topic. In case they have not, here’s a simple guide to Osteoarthritis from our Auckland physio clinic.
It is true, that yes, OA does involve “thinning” of the cartilage that sits around the ends of the bones. This differs from the meniscus which tends to be thrown in there too. You can have OA without any issues or pathology to the meniscus. What is commonly misunderstood is that OA is caused by fault or “overuse” of our own. In a very small number of cases, OA is caused by years of load-bearing activities. Recently, it has been found that arthritis is actually a result of a biological process. This means that we have very little control as to whether we will develop OA in the future or if this is engrained into our DNA. So, to start with, stop blaming yourself or regretting years of activity you had enjoyed.
Over the years, technology has been extremely helpful in diagnostic processes for medical professionals. With the development of this tool, also comes management of perception and expectation. X-rays can be helpful in ruling out any more serious pathology. In terms of highlighting OA, it mostly just increases anxiety and fear. What is most crucial to realise, is that imaging does not have any relation to how you are currently functioning. For example, we could have two x-rays with the exact same degree of “narrowing”, however one could be completely pain free and the other have symptoms. Here, it is the conversation with your physiotherapist that becomes really important in order to manage these expectations and fears.
Part of this decision for most people with arthritis is based on their pain. Before commencing an exercise regimen, it is important that your physiotherapist discusses the relationship between pain and damage (or lack there of in this case). In majority of cases, low pain levels do not indicate damage to the joint. However this is often enough to stop you from further physical activity. To put it simply, exercise is the most important aspect of any rehabilitation programme for OA. It is important to understand the benefits of exercise and how improvements in strength and flexibility supports your joints more effectively, not degrades them. Although walking is a popular form of exercise, this alone is not enough.
Resistance (or weights) training is beneficial in enhancing strength. Other forms of aerobic exercise such as cycling, or swimming are beneficial to increase your heart rate. These types of exercises, not only enhance your general health but also stimulates the production of your body’s natural anti-inflammtories.
OA is a complex condition that is poorly understood by most. Seeing one our highly trained physiotherapists is vital in providing you with the knowledge to further understand how you can manage this. Despite having OA, most can continue to live a long and active lifestyle. If you’re unsure where to start, book in with one of our physios in our Auckland physio clinic now to start your journey. Remember, keep active and keep going.