What is Osteoarthritis (OA)?
Joints are places in your body where bones meet. Bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons all work together so that you can bend, twist, stretch and move about. Osteoarthritis (OA) can affect any joint, but is often seen in the knees, hips, finger joints and big toe. It can develop at any age, but tends to be more common in people aged over 40 years and those who have had joint injuries.
OA may include:
- inflammation of the tissue around a joint
- changes to joint cartilage – the protective cushion on the ends of your bones which allows a joint to move smoothly
- bony spurs growing around the edge of a joint
- some weakening of ligaments (the tough bands that hold your joint together) and tendons (cords that attach muscles to bones)
OA symptoms will usually develop slowly, and most commonly cause pain and stiffness in the joint.
An x-ray may show narrowing and changes in the shape of your joint. However an x-ray that shows these changes does not mean you will have pain or problems (and you may have a very painful joint despite x-rays showing no changes).
Let’s think of cartilage like a sponge full of water…
When we apply loads to our cartilage (exercise), we push fluid out of our cartilage. Then when we rest, the nutrient rich joint fluid in the capsule surrounding is restored, like a sponge.
When we walk for example, loads press down on our cartilage. The cartilage absorbs the shock and fluids squeeze out into the surrounding joint space. Once loads are removed, or when we rest, the cartilage sucks the fluid back in from the surrounding area.
This lubricates the joint, reduces stiffness and improves mobility over time.
We like to say that ‘motion is lotion’.
Firstly, because we really like catchy rhymes.
Secondly, because we love the fact that by exercising regularly we can help nourish and give some love back to those joints that have kept us moving through life so far.
Regular physical activity can keep the muscles around affected joints strong, decrease bone loss, promote weight loss and keep the rest of your body moving as efficiently as possible. You can have great improvements in your function and return to activities you previously enjoyed by following a regular, structured exercise program.
If you’re someone living with OA you’ve probably already heard that exercise can help, have tried some form of exercise to no avail, and are still feeling that same pain every time you sit down on a chair.
We know that exercise isn’t ‘wearing and tearing’ your joints, but we want to find ways that you can exercise with minimal discomfort, and most importantly ways that you enjoy!
We’re aiming to do at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days, as well as doing strength training twice a week. It’s important to start small and slowly build upon weight bearing activities.
If you’re not sure which sort of exercise is best, or you haven’t yet found a way to exercise right for your body, come and have a chat with our Exercise Physiologist.
And remember, motion is lotion.