What is it?
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a condition which affects our joints. The cartilage that covers the ends of our bones thins and begins to wear away. Eventually, it becomes inadequate in its ability to protect the bone beneath. The bone develops spurs and cysts and the menisci (shock absorbers in the knee) can be susceptible to degenerative tears. Furthermore, the thin layer of tissue (synovium) inside the joint can become inflamed – it is often at this point, when you notice swelling of the joint.
As so many structures may be affected, the pain is not often localised.
Symptoms are often described as:
Stiffness – decreased movement when extending and bending the knee
Inflammation – swelling, warmth of the knee joint
Obesity is a major cause of knee OA as the knee is a weight bearing joint
A BMI > 30 increases the risk of OA in women by 4x and in men by 5x
A 10% body weight reduction can = a 50% reduction in pain
A 5kg loss of weight can minimise the risk of developing OA by half
Can affect all ages
More common with each decade over 45
More common in males before 50 and females after 50
4. Family History
A hereditary thin form of cartilage, that is less robust than the average
5. History of trauma or surgery
May develop early onset OA
6. Occupation (Heavy physical)
Increases load on knees
Knee OA is diagnosed with a thorough clinical assessment, history and in some cases an X-ray.
It is important to note, that many people with osteoarthritic changes on X-ray do NOT have any symptoms of knee pain. Therefore, an X-ray is not the be all and end all diagnosis that you have OA knee pain OR that you will need a knee replacement.
How can Physio help in the Management of knee OA?
Physiotherapy exercise and education is integral in the management of knee OA. According to the research, physiotherapy is equally effective to arthroscopic surgery (key hole surgery), not to mention the fact that there are very minimal side-effects when it comes to therapy.
Whether surgery is on the cards in the short-term, long-term or not at all, physiotherapy can have an enormous impact on your level of pain and function.
1. Develop you a safe and specific exercise program:
- Strength Training
Commonly, people with knee OA will have decreased muscle bulk in their quadriceps, hamstrings and hip muscles on the affected side.
Patients who undergo strength training have improvements in function, activities of daily living and pain.
Strong muscles can protect and support the joint affected by OA
Type of exercise and dosage is important – So PLEASE see a physio or exercise physiologist before engaging in strength training.
- Other beneficial exercises that are cardiovascular specific and are non-load bearing on your knees include
2. Recommend and fit you with a knee brace, if appropriate
Your run of the mill knee sleeves from the chemist tend not to have a great effect on knee function. Rather, they can keep the knee warm and reduce swelling if the knee requires compression.
IF necessary (particular job and/or sport), we can fit you with a brace designed specifically to unload sections of the knee
A brace does not replace or supersede the importance of exercise, rather it can complement it.
3. Manual Therapy
Massage/soft tissue work can sometimes be of benefit in OA knees that are restricted by quadriceps or hamstring tightness
Other manual therapy techniques, such as joint mobilisations can be used if there is a lack of movement in the hip or ankle that is contributing to the pain.
If weight is a contributing factor to your knee OA, losing even 5% can have a substantial effect on your level of pain.
As physio’s we help direct you trainer with type and dosage of exercises
Here at Coast Sport, we work as part of a multi-disciplinary team. We work alongside dieticians and podiatrists who can have a tremendous impact on knee OA as well.
Book an appointment at Coast Sport by calling 4356 2588 or book online via the button below.