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Osteoarthritis – What is it and what can I do about it?

Osteoarthritis is one of the leading causes of disability in aging populations. It is estimated that 250 million people worldwide suffer with this disease and as people are now living longer than ever this number will only rise. 

Simply put, osteoarthritis is a disease that effects the whole joint and leads to changes in the quality of the cartilage, ligaments, bones and muscles around the joint. The disease is an active process arising from an imbalance between the repair and destruction of joint tissues rather than a simple downhill “wear and tear” process. 

Treatment Options

There is a common misconception that a diagnosis of osteoarthritis means a joint replacement surgery is inevitable. In some severe cases this will be the ultimate step but it is certainly not the case for everyone. Expert groups meet all over the world to design “best practice guidelines” for osteoarthritis. One recommendation from them all is that exercise is a crucial part of managing osteoarthritis well. We also know that in addition to aerobic exercise such as walking, cycling or swimming that strength training is key to an effective management plan. This type of exercise involves contracting muscles with much higher force than you normally would during your regular daily activities. It can be trickier to work into your routine but the benefits from increasing muscle strength are well worth the effort. 

Physiotherapists are very well placed to both diagnose osteoarthritis and to help people start to exercise whatever their current physical activity levels. Patrick is highly experienced in helping people with this condition and believes a thorough initial assessment and well designed,  individualised and manageable exercise plan is a great start to getting on top of your osteoarthritis. 

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