What is osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in the UK and occurs after the cartilage cells protecting the joint are unable to release a sufficient amount of protein to repair the damage. This causes cartilage to soften and as a result, over time, it wears away. This is commonly referred to or heard of as ‘wear and tear’. Due to this, the cartilage begins to lose some of its elasticity, causing pain and stiffness in and around the joints.
Ultimately, this can cause larger areas of cartilage to deteriorate and weaken – so much the joint begins to change in shape, with the area between the joints becoming narrower.
As well as this, the bone at the edge of your joint grows outwards, forming bony spurs called osteophytes. In some cases, fragments of bone break off from the damaged joint surface and float freely between the joints, causing them to ‘lock’ or stiffen.
Eventually, the process of wear and tear will cause both pain and reduce the ability to move the joint within its full range of motion.
A joint with osteoarthritis is larger in size than a healthy joint – often giving it a swollen, enlarged appearance.
Characteristics of osteoarthritis
- Affects more than one third of adults aged over 65.
- Symptoms include: pain, aches and stiffness in the joint
- Usually, joints affected are on only one side on the body
- Most common joints affected are: the knee, hip, feet, finger joints or the base of the thumb and the spine.
- Stiffness often occurs for less than an hour first thing in the morning or after you have been inactive for a while.
What are the causes of osteoarthritis?
- Age – Osteoarthritis usually starts from the late 40s onwards. This might be due to the fact that as you age, the muscles weakening and the body being less able to heal itself, another reason could be that your joints are slowly wearing out over time.
- Gender – For most joints, especially the knees and hands, osteoarthritis is more common and more severe in women.
- Obesity – Being overweight is an important factor in causing osteoarthritis, especially in your knee. It also increases your chances of osteoarthritis getting worse.
- Joint injury – A major injury or operation on a joint may lead to osteoarthritis in that specific joint later in life. Normal activity and exercise don’t cause osteoarthritis, but doing very hard activities over and over or physically demanding jobs can increase your risk.
- Joint abnormalities – If you were born with abnormalities or developed them in childhood, it can lead to earlier and more severe osteoarthritis than usual. An example of this is Perthes’ disease of the hips.
Can Chiropractic care help with osteoarthritis?
Your chiropractor will assess each patient individually, paying close attention to your muscles and the range of movement in your joints. He/she will then advise you on techniques and exercises to help with symptoms.
Chiropractic Manipulation: Is proven to be helpful with improving the range of movement within the joint, but it’s not appropriate for every patient. A chiropractor will be able to advise you further as to whether or not this procedure would be useful to you.
A chiropractor may offer alternative treatments, such as:
- Massage and soft tissue stretching: this can help muscles to relax, allowing easier joint movement and making it more comfortable.
- Acupuncture: Acupuncture stimulates the brain to release endorphins. As a result, this helps tight and painful muscles to relax.
Exercise to improve your fitness:
Osteoarthritis tends to respond well to movement. Although exercise is off-putting because of the pain in the joint, there are several studies that show physical activity is one of the best ways to improve quality of life with osteoarthritis. Exercise helps to keep joints flexible and strengthen bones and muscles – protecting and supporting the joints affected by osteoarthritis.
Good exercises to do would be resistance workouts with thera-bands or lifting light weights to build stronger muscles around the joints. If you are overweight, however, then try to do more aerobic exercises to burn calories. By maintaining a healthy weight, there is less stress on the painful joints. You may experience some increase in pain when you first begin, but this is perfectly normal and improves as you continue to exercise. Remember to start gently, and increase your activity gradually.
Your chiropractor will build an exercise programme that is suitable for your condition, goals and preferences.
What is the next step if conservative care is not successful?
When conservative treatment is unsuccessful in controlling the pain, patients are referred for corticosteroid injections for temporary pain relief that usually lasts for a few weeks. However, in cases of severe knee or hip OA, patients are referred for an orthopaedic consultation with the view to joint replacement.
Can dietary supplements help?
The dietary supplements commonly used by patients with OA are glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate. However, reports for their use in the literature is considered controversial. We will advise you to:
- Avoid processed food, which is pro-inflammatory and therefore causes more pain in your joints
- Encourage you to have a balanced diet full of fresh vegetables.
What can I do to help my problem?
- Keep active, go for a walk in the fresh air every day
- Avoid using the car for short distances, less than one mile? Walk!
- Go for a bicycle ride, this will help you mobilise your hips and knees in a non-weight bearing position
- Go swimming
For further information or to book your appointment with one of our chiropractors please phone 01892-543029 or book online here