Old fella with osteoarthritis

Your guide to osteoarthritis

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis (or OA for short), is the most common form of chronic arthritis. In OA, the cartilage on the ends of your bones wears down, resulting in direct contact between the bones. This mainly affects the hands, knees and ankles. OA affects many Australians – the number is expected to rise from 2.2 million in 2015 to almost 3.1 million by 2030.

Several factors can predispose you to developing OA including older age, increased bodyweight, previous joint injury (e.g., an ACL injury in the knee), being female, genetics, and certain medical conditions (e.g., diabetes).

What does osteoarthritis feel like?

Patients commonly notice the following symptoms:

  • Pain that has lasted longer than three months
  • Pain during or after movement
  • Swelling or tenderness around the affected joints
  • Reduced range
  • Stiffness, especially after waking up or staying still 
  • Grinding sensation while moving

How can Solutions help me with my osteoarthritis?

Physiotherapy and exercise physiology treatment can help improve your quality of life through exercise, which is the recommended form of treatment for Osteoarthritis. Exercise helps to strengthen the muscles around the joints, improves range of motion and improves overall function, allowing you to move more easily. When you see one of our clinicians, we tailor treatment to suit your needs, interests and lifestyle. There are plenty of available options, including:

  • Strength training (at home or in a gym environment)
  • Balance or neuromuscular training
  • Aerobic conditioning 
  • Stretching
  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi

Appropriately prescribed exercise is a high-reward, low-risk treatment and is well-supported by research. Many patients notice a reduction in symptoms and improved quality of life after following a regular exercise program.

Should I get a scan?

Whilst OA can be picked up on an x-ray or other types of imaging, it is not essential to have them in order to be diagnosed with OA. Furthermore, research also shows that the severity of the OA on scans does not always relate to your experience of pain – some people have “mild” changes on their scans but bad pain and poor quality of life, whilst others can have “severe” changes but still have high levels of function and a good quality of life.

What about surgery?

Surgery is another treatment option for patients, but is often considered a last resort due to the risk and cost associated with it. It is important to note that research has shown that many patients can obtain good outcomes through exercise treatment alone compared to surgery.

It is often recommended that patients complete “prehab”, which is an exercise-based treatment program prior to surgery. The aim of “prehab” is to strengthen muscles and joints as much as possible before surgery, as this has been shown to improve outcomes post-surgery. “Prehab” is usually recommended for a period of six to eight weeks to allow enough time for the body to adapt, but may go for longer.

In some cases, some patients experience so much improvement in their function after “prehab” that they elect to delay or forgo surgery altogether. Whilst we’re not saying every patient will have this experience, it’s certainly worth trying!

I think I have osteoarthritis!

If you have OA, or think you might have OA, give us a call on 1300 738 609 or book online to see one of our friendly clinicians! Both our physiotherapists and exercise physiologist are qualified to treat patients with OA. Let us help you find your Solution today.

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Frequently Asked Questions