What is osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis, also known as OA, is the most common form of arthritis. This diagnosis describes the degenerative changes that occur in your joints as you age. This includes the gradual break down or “wear and tear” of bones and cartilage. It is extremely common and according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), osteoarthritis affects over 30 million US adults.
How do I know if I have OA?
Osteoarthritis can be diagnosed with X-ray imaging. The X-ray can show narrowing of joint spaces, most commonly in the hands, hips, and knees. Risk factors include: joint injury, overuse, age, gender, obesity, genetics, and race.
Do not panic! Physical therapy can help.
Many of my patients express considerable concern, anxiety, and fear after being diagnosed with OA. It is very common for these individuals to become hesitant to move because they have been told they are “bone on bone” and they do not want to hurt themselves or make it worse. I always tell my patients not to worry; most often, the best thing you can do is keep moving. By becoming sedentary, you lose muscle strength and endurance, thereby further weakening those effected joints.
OA is a normal part of our bodies aging process, and X-ray imaging does NOT correlate with pain. I have worked with patients who have severe OA and are pain-free. Alternatively, I have treated patients with normal X-ray findings who are experiencing significant pain. By strengthening the muscles surrounding your arthritic joints, physical therapy can help to slow down the progression of OA by providing stability to the joint. OA is not reversible but with proper treatment, individuals can experience improved pain levels, strength, mobility, function, and ultimately improved quality of life.
Knee OA is a very common finding and I treat it frequently in the clinic. Here are a few exercises you can try in order to begin strengthening your arthritic knees. Discontinue theses exercises and consult your physical therapist if they cause any undue pain.