There are various types of Arthritis. The most common type of Arthritis is Osteoarthritis (OA).Sometimes called degenerative joint disease or degenerative arthritis, 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 OA, cartilage breaks down, causing pain and problems moving the joint. Risk factors include genetics, obesity, previous joint injury, muscle weakness.The terms “wear & tear” and “degeneration” can be very misleading. They can often make people fearful of using these effected joints in case they might “do more damage”. Recent research has shown that mechanical loading actually decreases pain and inflammation associated with OA and can help with tissue repair.Proper use keeps joints lubricated and stimulates the repair and rebuilding process. Lack of use, on the other hand, allows the cartilage to become dryer, more brittle and more prone to damage over time.Specifically, this tends to happen in the parts of the joint surface related to ranges of motion that aren’t sufficiently being used. So, prevention is key.
Living a healthy lifestyle is key:
- including maintaining a healthy weight, eating well, staying hydrated and regularly exercising.
- Cardiovascular exercise is very important as it will improve circulation, but strengthening and flexibility exercises are just as important.
- Strengthening exercises build muscles around joints, easing the burden on those joints.
- Flexibility exercises help maintain and improve joint mobility and reduce stiffness.
But what if you already have OA? All of the above still applies. Mechanical loading of these joints will still help. However, we don’t want to overload these joints and irritate them. So we can start at a lower level and build back up.
Aquatic exercise, hydrotherapy (aka pool exercises) can be especially useful. It allows you to exercise in a lower gravity environment which means less compression in the joints, while still moving through a therapeutic range of motion and strengthening the muscles.
We can also use other strategies like non-weight bearing and/or non-moving (isometric) strengthening exercises to load the joint without aggravating symptoms.
Often times, people self-diagnose themselves with Arthritis; Dr. Google isn’t always right and so you may currently be experiencing pain/stiffness from something else.
We can assess you to figure out what the problem is and the cause of it. If OA is a possibility it will need to be confirmed by an X-Ray or MRI.
Either way, getting to the cause of the problem is the main issue; Strength and flexibility deficits as well as poor movement patterns can lead to OA or similar issues.
When you come to APC, we will not only look for the problem, but the cause of it and how to address these issues.