By Courtney Lethridge, Physiotherapist

What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease, where the cartilage (the shock-absorber of the joint) protecting bones breaks down over time, exposing the ends of the bones causing pain, stiffness and swelling in the joint. It is the most common type of arthritis in Australia and most often impacts the knees and hips. Symptoms of osteoarthritis are often worst in the mornings and evenings, and during or after exercise. It can also be sore whilst maintaining a posture for a long period, including prolonged sitting or standing. These symptoms normally start off mild and worsen over time.

The best exercises for osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis can significantly affect the quality of weight bearing joints of the legs (hips, knees), so doing regular exercise to keep the large muscles of the legs strong and flexible is a must! It is normal that you may feel some pain when starting new exercises, as long as you are not in significant pain or sore for more than 1 day post-exercising. Ideally, the focus of your workout should be the lower limb muscle strength and joint mobility, abdominal and core control, flexibility and balance.

  • Strength training

Exercise programs targeted at strengthening the gluteal muscles, hamstrings, quadriceps, calves and abdominal muscles are ideal for best supporting and de-loading joints. Your physiotherapist can help prescribe specific exercises to train both isolated muscle groups and progress to include functional movements. Osteoarthritic joints respond well to loading and whilst they may be sore when initially starting to include exercise in your routine, in time your overall pain will decrease.

  • Pilates

Pilates exercises are versatile and highly modifiable, so are a great starting place for exercise beginners. Pilates workouts should focus on improving your core and lower limb muscle strength, greater joint mobility, pelvic stability and balance. Our physiotherapist are all well-versed in creating appropriate and individualised exercises with Pilates equipment to best load and benefit your joints.

  • Hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy is a great option for those with osteoarthritis. The buoyancy of the water helps to alleviate weight off the joints, the hydrostatic effect of the water on limbs reduces swelling, and the water itself provides consistent resistance for muscle strengthening.

Importance of Weight Management

Another important and effective strategy for osteoarthritis treatment is weight management. Your bones are the frame of your body, and can only support a certain amount of load before it will start to feel stress. If you add to much weight to this frame, your body may not cope with this loading. If you’re carrying extra weight, your joints will be over-compressed and more likely to degenerate.

If you think weight may be affecting your joints, speak to your GP about a dietician referral to ensure you are appropriately fuelling your body with good nutritious foods in appropriate quantities. They can also help you set measurable and achievable goals to reach healthy weights and improve your osteoarthritis management.

To make an appointment with one of our experience Physiotherapists, click here to book online or call (08) 6389 2947.

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