There are many different types of arthritis with a wide range of symptoms affecting a variety of joints. Osteopathy can help with the symptoms of osteoarthritis (wear and tear) which often manifests as joint stiffness and pain. Osteoarthritis commonly affects the weight bearing joints, hips, knees and lower back.
Sometimes called degenerative joint disease or degenerative arthritis, osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common chronic condition of the joints. OA can affect any joint, but it occurs most often in knees, hips, lower back and neck, small joints of the fingers and the bases of the thumb and big toe.
In normal joints, a firm, rubbery material called cartilage covers the end of each bone. Cartilage provides a smooth, gliding surface for joint motion and acts as a cushion between the bones. In OA, the cartilage breaks down, causing pain, swelling and problems moving the joint. As OA worsens over time, bones may break down and develop growths called spurs. Bits of bone or cartilage may chip off and float around in the joint. In the final stages of OA, the cartilage wears away and bone rubs against bone leading to joint damage and more pain.
Who is affected by Osteoarthritis
Although OA occurs in people of all ages, osteoarthritis is most common in people older than 65. Common risk factors include increasing age, obesity, previous joint injury, overuse of the joint, and genes.
- One in two adults will develop symptoms of knee OA during their lives.
- One in four adults will develop symptoms of hip OA by age 85.
- One in 12 people 60 years or older have hand OA.
Symptoms of osteoarthritis vary, depending on which joints are affected and how severely they are affected. However, the most common symptoms are pain and stiffness, particularly first thing in the morning or after resting. Affected joints may get swollen, especially after extended activity. These symptoms tend to build over time rather than show up suddenly. Some of the common symptoms include:
- Sore or stiff joints – particularly the hips, knees, and lower back – after inactivity or overuse.
- Limited range of motion or stiffness that goes away after movement
- Clicking or cracking sound when a joint bends
- Mild swelling around a joint
- Pain that is worse after activity or toward the end of the day
Osteoarthitis pain, swelling or stiffness may make it difficult to perform ordinary tasks at work or at home. When the lower body joints are affected, activities such as walking, climbing stairs and lifting objects may become difficult. When finger and hand joints are affected, osteoarthritis can make it difficult to grasp and hold objects, such as a pencil, or to do delicate tasks, such as needlework.
Many people believe that the effects of osteoarthritis are inevitable, so they don’t do anything to manage it. OA symptoms can hinder work, social life and family life if steps are not taken to prevent joint damage, manage pain and increase flexibility.
Osteoarthritis Treatment Options
Osteopathic Treatment for Osteoarthritis
Osteopathic treatment cannot reverse the joint changes but may be able to help the patient cope better with them by increasing the mobility in the joint, reducing tension in the local muscles groups and easing the pain associated with the arthritic changes.
A combination of hands-on treatment and exercises can be beneficial.
One of the most beneficial ways to manage OA is to get moving. While it may be hard to think of exercise when the joints hurt, moving is considered an important part of the treatment plan. Studies show that simple activities like walking, swimming or taking an easy exercise class can reduce pain and help maintain (or attain) a healthy weight.
Strengthening exercises build muscles around OA-affected joints, easing the burden on those joints and reducing pain. Range-of-motion exercise helps maintain and improve joint flexibility and reduce stiffness.
Excess weight adds additional stress to weight-bearing joints, such as the hips, knees, feet and back. Losing weight can help people with OA reduce pain and limit further joint damage.
Slow, gentle stretching of joints may improve flexibility, lessen stiffness and reduce pain. Exercises such as yoga and tai chi are great ways to manage stiffness.
Pain and Anti-inflammatory Medications
Medicines for osteoarthritis are available over the counter or from your GP.
Joint surgery can repair or replace severely damaged joints, especially hips or knees. A doctor will refer an eligible patient to an orthopaedic surgeon to perform the procedure.