Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and affects 2.1 million Australians. It is a
chronic and progressive condition that mostly affects the hands, spine and weight bearing
joints such as the hip, knee and ankle. Osteoarthritis is commonly referred to as a
degenerative ‘wear and tear’ condition of bone, ligaments, cartilage and muscle, hence why
it is more common in individuals aged over 50-60 years old and those who have had injuries.
Although it is often described as ‘wear and tear’, it is now thought to be the result of a joint
working extra hard to repair itself.
Common features of the condition include:
- Inflammation of the tissue around the joint
- Break down of the joint’s articular cartilage which is the protective coating on the ends of
bones, which allows a joint to move smoothly
- Bony spurs known as osteophytes growing around the edge of the joint
- Deterioration of tendons and ligaments
- Decreased joint space which changes how the joint moves
People living with osteoarthritis experience diffuse aching pain, stiffness, decreased range
of motion, muscle wasting and may also experience crepitus which is a grinding sensation in
the joint. It is most commonly aggravated by weight bearing activities and is eased by rest.
However, managing this disease can sometimes seem like a double-edged sword where
overusing an osteoarthritic joint may worsen the health of the joint but also the less you use
the joint, the weaker it gets as the muscles surrounding the joint become weaker and the
joint becomes stiff. Physiotherapy can help to find the balance between the two to make
everyday tasks such as walking and getting out of bed easier. The goal of physiotherapy
treatment is to improve their quality of life by preventing the progression of the disease
through monitoring and educating the patient and also including non-surgical treatments
such as weight loss plans, exercise and pain management.