Sufferers of knee pain know that nothing can kill your optimism for a recovery faster than a diagnosis of Osteoarthritis (OA). Osteoarthritis is often seen as a kind of death sentence for joints. Many people believe that if you have OA your pain will never improve and will only get worse until a joint replacement can be performed.
In fact, joint replacements for hip and knee OA are some of the most common and indeed successful operations performed by orthopedic surgeons. At least this has been conventional wisdom for decades. Many of us compare our bodies to cars, and think that when a part ‘wears out’ it needs replacing with a new one. In truth, our bodies are much more complicated, largely due to our bodies’ incredible ability to adapt and change.
Physiotherapists have always known that the pain and disability that comes with arthritis can be improved with a closely targeted exercise program. In many cases, the pain that is attributed to OA is actually being caused by another, entirely treatable cause. In other cases, strengthening the musculature around the painful joint can have a significant effect by providing the joint with extra support.
The way we move is often affected negatively by pain and this in itself can create more pain. Improving the way you move can often improve your symptoms too. For some people, having surgery will provide the best outcomes, however there is a strong case for seeing your physiotherapist before considering this pathway.
Physiotherapists are trained to identify exactly what is causing your pain and help you reach your highest level of function. In fact, a recent study has shown that with directed exercises, many patients who were scheduled to have surgery were able to improve their quality of life dramatically and avoid surgery while getting back to their favourite activities.
While exercise is a very powerful treatment, to be effective, you will need to have a full assessment and a personalized treatment program created by your physiotherapist. This can involve identifying weak muscles, limitations in flexibility, finding painful trigger points, restoring movement to stiff joints and providing a biomechanical assessment to make a combination of changes that can make a large difference to your pain and activity levels.
Your physiotherapist can also identify any external factors that may be contributing to your pain. Such as unsupportive footwear, workplace set up etc. Talk to us to see how we can help you manage your osteoarthritis.