Osteoarthritis or OA is one of the most common causes of pain seen by physiotherapists.

Nearly everyone has heard of osteoarthritis, but not that many know what it is, or what you can do to help manage the symptoms associated with the condition.

Osteoarthritis is one of the most common forms of arthritis. It is most common among people aged over 45 years, but can occur in younger people.

OA is a chronic and progressive disease characterised by loss of cartilage that covers and protects the ends of the bones where they meet at a joint.

Eventually, the cartilage can break down to such an extent that it no longer cushions the two bones. So you have bone rubbing on bone, which can be quite painful.

The symptoms of osteoarthritis can vary from one person to the next, but some of the more common symptoms include:

  • Stiffness;
  • joint pain; and
  • muscle weakness.

Although the cause of osteoarthritis is still unclear, some risk factors have been identified, including:

  • being overweight or obese;
  • a family history of osteoarthritis; and
  • a previous injury, significant trauma or overuse of the joint.

Although there is no cure for osteoarthritis, there is much you can do to slow its progression, reduce the associated pain, and maintain, or improve function, including:

  1. Weight loss: This is super important, as carrying around extra pounds only puts extra stress on already painful joints.
  2. Range of movement exercises: These are essential to improve joint mobility, reduce stiffness, and help prevent tightening of the tissues around the joint. These exercises gently stretch and lengthen the muscles and move the joints through a range of motion that’s comfortable.
  3. Strengthening exercises: Pain associated with arthritis has a weakening effect on the surrounding muscles. By undertaking strengthening exercises, muscle weakness can be reversed, and strong muscles will support sore joints.
  4. Medication: Speak to your GP or specialist about medication required to best manage your pain and inflammation.