Osteoarthritis is a very common condition which can affect any joint in the body. It’s most likely to affect the joints that bear most of our weight, such as the hips, knees and feet. Joints that we use a lot in everyday life, such as the joints of the hand, are also commonly affected.
In a healthy joint, a coating of tough but smooth and slippery tissue, called cartilage, covers the surface of the bones and helps the bones to move freely against each other. When a joint develops osteoarthritis, part of the cartilage thins and the surface becomes rougher. This means the joint doesn’t move as smoothly as it should.
Symptoms of Osteoarthritis: The main symptoms of osteoarthritis are pain and sometimes stiffness in the affected joints. The pain tends to be worse when you move the joint or at the end of the day. Your joints may feel stiff after rest, but this usually wears off fairly quickly once you get moving. Symptoms may vary for no obvious reason. Or you may find that your symptoms vary depending on what you’re doing.
The affected joint may sometimes be swollen. The swelling may be:
hard and knobbly, especially in the finger joints, caused by the growth of extra bone
soft, caused by thickening of the joint lining and extra fluid inside the joint capsule.
The joint may not move as freely or as far as normal, and it may make grating or crackling sounds as you move it. This is called crepitus.
Sometimes the muscles around the joint may look thin or wasted. The joint may give way at times because your muscles have weakened or because the joint structure has become less stable.
Although there’s no cure for osteoarthritis yet, there are treatments that can provide relief from the symptoms and allow you to get on with your life. These include:
pain relief medications
supplements and complementary treatments.
Many people worry that exercising will increase their pain and may cause further joint damage. However, while resting painful joints may make them feel more comfortable at first, too much rest can increase stiffness.
You shouldn’t be afraid to use your joints. If pain makes it difficult to get started with exercise, you could try taking a painkiller such as paracetamol beforehand. And if you feel you’ve overdone things a bit, try applying warmth to the painful joint – or if it’s swollen, applying an ice pack may help.
Our Therapists in New Milton have a vast amount of experience helping people with osteoarthritis, including both general symptom modification/reduction, education and advice, as well as pre or post operative Physiotherapy following a Total Knee Replacement or Total Hip Replacement.