Managing Joint Pain
Osteoarthritis (OA)

Osteoarthritis is a condition affecting one, or multiple, joints, which develops over a number of years. It is, in very simple terms, general wear and tear of the joints. It affects each individual differently. For some people the changes happen very slowly, over a long period of time, and that the changes are hardly felt. Others will find that over time, pain and reduced movement occur and this can restrict their function.

OA is more common in people over 40, although even from our early 20s out joints will start to deteriorate. It is generally more common in women, and those who carry extra weight, as this puts increased pressure on the joints. A major injury to a joint or its surrounding structures can also contribute to some of the changes below, and so contributes to OA.

What Changes Occur?
In healthy joints there is a protective layer covering the bony ends, known as cartilage. The role of cartilage is to absorb some of the stresses that a joint is subjected to, and so protect the bones. For people who develop OA, this cartilage layer becomes thinner and pitted, and over time may even totally wear out in places. If this happens, the bones which make up that joint can rub together. This in turn can lead to the bones reshaping to have osteophytes (bony growths), and this adds to pain and inflammation.

The joint may look swollen – this is because the capsule around the joint will thicken, and the amount of lubricating fluid around the joint (synovial fluid) will increase, in an attempt to protect the joint. This can contribute to a feeling of stiffness.

The most commonly affected joints are those which weight bear, such as hips, knees, ankles and the spine. This can have a huge impact on the quality of life and mobility of those who suffer with OA, but equally can go relatively un-noticed.

Things which can aggravate OA and how to avoid them
Cold, damp weather – try combating this with swimming in a heated pool, or just wrapping up warm and using regular heat packs to reduce aches and stiffness.

Increased weight – Sticking to your optimum body weight is not only better for your joints, but will benefit your overall health
Increased stress through joints – Try using a walking aid if needed, it may reduce the stresses placed weight bearing joints. Sticking to more even ground can reduce stresses as well.

Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that physiotherapy cannot treat. An autoimmune disease is when your immune system attacks the cells that line your joints, making them swollen, stiff and painful. Over time, this can damage the joint itself, the cartilage and nearby bone.

There is currently no known cure for rheumatoid arthritis, however, early diagnosis and treatment can control symptoms and help prevent disability.

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