Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of Arthritis in the country with the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) suggesting a staggering 2.1 million Aussie’s have this condition! So what is OA and why does it hurt so bloody much?! OA is a degenerative disorder of the joints and predominantly effects the knees, hips, lumbar and cervical spine. In unaffected joints, a rubbery cartilage covers the end of the bone and provides a smooth, cushioned surface between bones. In OA, this cartilage breaks down and can cause pain and swelling symptoms. As OA progresses, bone spurs may form around the joint space, restricting movement and causing pain, OUCH!

Who is affected?

Although ‘OA’ stands for Osteoarthritis it could also stand for ‘Old Age’ (insert laughter). Yes, Osteoarthritis is much more prevalent in the elderly, with the prevalence of OA increasing sharply after the age of 45. OA is also more common in females.

How can exercise help?

All clinical guidelines recommend exercise to help manage OA! Exercise has been found to be as effective in reliving symptoms as pain medications and anti-inflammatory drugs. Exercise has also been shown to be safer and have fewer side effects. Exercise has been shown to help with the following;

  • Reduce pain
  • Increase muscle strength
  • Improve joint range of motion
  • Improve balance and reduce risk of falls
  • Prevent deconditioning and muscle wastage
  • Improve physical functioning
  • Improve well-being

Yes, consider exercise as medicine!

Why types of exercise work best?

– Resistance training has been shown to improve strength, reduce pain and enhance functioning for those who suffer from OA. A literature review found participants who completed a resistance training program reduced pain symptoms by 35% and increased their lower limb function by 33% as compared to a control group! 

– Low-impact aerobic exercise is beneficial to help assist in caloric expenditure and weight loss. Weight loss will help reduce the mechanical load on the joints and help decrease the progression of OA. 

– Hydrotherapy can be beneficial for those who suffer severe pain. The buoyancy of the water helps to reduce the load on the joint and is a great way of completing movements you otherwise may not be able to do out of the pool!

– OA is often associated with stiffness and decreased joint range of motion. Completing stretching exercises are a great way to improve range of motion and promote healthy joint functioning

How can an Exercise Physiologist help?

People with OA often have other chronic conditions which could be effecting the body at the same time. For example, 51% of people who report having OA also report having cardiovascular disease! 35% of people with OA also report having lower back pain! A comprehensive assessment by a qualified health practitioner like an Accredited Exercise Physiologist can evaluate all conditions and prescribe suitable exercise prescription to help best-manage all conditions.