Osteoarthritis is a disease that can affect any joint in the body and is the most common reason for people not to be active as they age. Most frequently, we see osteoarthritis in the knees, hips, fingers and hands. It is the most common lifestyle disease - even more common than high blood pressure and diabetes! It can impact many daily activities including leisure activities and sports, occupation, playing with children/grandchildren, ascending/descending stairs, putting on socks and shoes. Perhaps you have noticed some of these activities as being difficult? Not to fear, there is a way to address osteoarthritis and get you back to doing the things you love!
What is it?
Most joints are covered by cartilage that provide a smooth surface when the bones move and absorb shock. If the joint is exposed to too much load all at once or over time, the cartilage can begin to degrade, leading to osteoarthritis.
How do you know if you have it?
People with arthritis can experience many different symptoms including:
Pain with walking or standing
Stiffness in the affected joint, especially in the morning or after sitting down for a prolonged period
Clicking and grinding sounds
Inflammation: swollen and possibly red/hot joints
It will be diagnosed based on the presence of these symptoms, a clinical examination and possibly X-rays.
What are the risk factors for developing osteoarthritis?
Some of the risk factors associated with developing osteoarthritis are modifiable and others you cannot change, such as age, gender and heredity. Of the risk factors that you can actually change the include:
Joint injury or overloading a joint from work or sport
Obesity: increases the risk for many types of arthritis
Physical inactivity: too much rest and not enough activity actually worsens cartilage, muscle and bone quality
Muscle weakness: muscles help support our joints and work as shock absorbers
There are many things you can do on your own to prevent or improve your osteoarthritis symptoms. These include:
Controlling how you load your hips and knees with the appropriate exercises
Avoid sitting for greater than 20 minutes at a time and take breaks more often
Try your best to avoid limping as this may lead to a cascade of changes that can cause pain in other parts of your body.
Strive for optimal body weight. Losing one kg has a 2-5 x reduction in weight going through your knees!
Maintaining appropriate strength in the muscles surrounding your arthritic joints
Working on the affected joints’ range of motion
Use supportive devices when needed (cane, etc)
Get help and support from others
What treatment options are available?
Osteoarthritis treatment aims at reducing your symptoms, but more importantly, to improving your overall function. All patients seeking care for osteoarthritis should be offered education, exercise and weight reduction tips if needed. If that first line of treatment doesn’t provide enough relief, it can be complemented with physical therapy, acupuncture, medication, orthotics, walking aids or TENS (electrical stimulation). Only those with very severe symptoms (approximately 10-15%) require some type of surgery. Of all these treatments, the one that has been shown to produce the best pain relief and improvement in function is exercise therapy! Remember, physical activity is not harmful to your joints, nor will it worsen your arthritis. In fact, doing the proper exercise will lead to healthier cartilage, improvement in your range of motion, stronger and more stable joints and the ability to move better. Excessive inactivity will only make things worse.
We can help!
Dr. Myrtos is an expert in treating patients with osteoarthritis. He is a GLA:D certified practitioner that also lectures in this subject matter regularly. In collaboration with the Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation and Bone and Joint Canada he has helped implement and supervise an arthritis prevention and treatment program at the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College with 83% of patients finding the program beneficial and 70% of patients showing significant improvement in function. With treatment you can expect to experience:
Improvement in function
Less need to take painkillers
Overall improvement in quality of life
Schedule an appointment here and start your journey to a better you! Or if you have a question for Dr. Myrtos, click here.