Arthritis is one of the most common conditions that people seek our help for. But what exactly is going on? Here’s our Clinical Lead Mark Reid with a quick explainer.
What is ‘arthritis’?
Osteoarthritis is a common condition which can affect any joint of the body but most commonly the knee and hip joints. Many people consider it to be ‘wear and tear’ of the joint although we’re not sure that this definition is entirely accurate. You see, to a certain extent, arthritic change in a joint is inevitable as we age. This is because, as we age on the outside, we also age on the inside. Skin that was once smooth when we were children, starts to develop wrinkles as an adult; this certainly doesn’t mean that our skin is wearing away! To a certain extent then, many of the changes we see on an x-ray of a joint in an adult are often merely a sign of a normal age-related change and are in fact absolutely nothing to worry about in isolation.
However, having a joint that doesn’t move quite as smoothly as it once did occasionally – but not always! – results in a joint that can’t cope with the same pressures that it once did. If this happens, and the joint becomes overloaded, the joint will often swell and become painful whilst it tries to repair itself. It’s when this cycle of overload and pain continues on a frequent basis that a diagnosis of osteoarthritis is made and is most frequently when people begin to seek our services.
– Osteoarthritis is the most common musculoskeletal complaint affecting older adults.
– The most frequently affected joints are the knee and the hip, which can lead to problems with mobility and function.
– Arthritis is one of the leading causes of time off work.
– Knee arthritis affects 1 in 5 adults over the age of 45.
– People most at risk of developing osteoarthritis are those who are overweight and/or inactive, as well as those suffering with depression or anxiety.
What can be done about it?
Some people seem to think that there is nothing that can be done for arthritis and that just isn’t true! Whilst we can’t reverse the effects of aging we can do things to keep the joints healthy and improve the amount of load that they can tolerate. Research is pretty clear that the best treatments for arthritis are exercise and weight loss. The cruel irony with arthritis however, is that the joint pain can be the very thing preventing people from exercising and therefore stopping them doing the one thing they need in order to get better!
How do we treat it?
At Chews Health we always start with a thorough assessment to find out which particular factors are contributing to your arthritis. We look at the extent of stiffness and swelling within the joint, the strength of the muscles surrounding the joint as well as your daily routine and functional needs. But we also look for other contributing factors which are sometimes missed such as depression and anxiety, fear of loading the joint, your beliefs about what might be occurring to the joint.
Our treatments are then optimised as to what is best for you. We will commonly advise you on how to adjust daily activities or exercise routines so that they are less painful, we often look to address strength deficits or stiffness in the joint. Once, the joint pain has begun to calm down we then look at how we can gradually begin to increase your activity again and train the joint so that it can tolerate more load in future without becoming painful.
What we’re really focused on is getting you back to doing whatever it is that arthritis has stopped you doing or stopped you enjoying.
If you feel that you might benefit from an assessment with one of our physiotherapists, you can book online using the form here. If you would like to speak to one of our physiotherapists about your issue then please get in touch via email [email protected] or by phone 0161 871 7391.