Osteoarthritis is a common process that occurs, over time, in the joints of the body. It affects many people, some of whom are not bothered by it, and others that are so debilitated they require surgery to relieve them of pain.
We are all familiar with the term “wear and tear”, and this represents a breakdown of cartilage, the smooth lining needed for a healthy joint. A breakdown of cartilage occurs more rapidly with age, as the body slows down its ability to regenerate. It is also linked with trauma to the joint, family history of osteoarthritis, muscle weakness and joint instability, among others. With less cartilage, the joint becomes stiffer, the bones can change shape, and in some cases, the joint can be painful.
Interestingly, research has shown that the experience of pain is poorly linked to the presence of osteoarthritis. To put it another way, if you have osteoarthritis, you are not condemned to a lifetime of joint pain.
Whilst coming to see your osteopath, or health professional can help alleviate these pains, there is much you can do to help yourself.
Current research shows that movement and exercise is the most effective way to improve the health of your joints. It helps strengthen your muscles, improve stability and balance, all of which reduces the impact placed on the cartilage. It is important that whatever exercise you choose be moderate-low impact, regular and sustainable, something you enjoy, and not exacerbate your pain.
Addressing poor posture or habits that perhaps led to osteoarthritis can often reduce any pain experienced during exercise.
So put your thinking cap on, find out what activities, or lack thereof, make your joints sore, and see if you can alter them, for the better. If your pain persists, then your Osteopath or health professional can always help you find a safe and comfortable way to exercise.
Above all, don’t let osteoarthritis stop you from moving and using your body. You will not be making it worse, in fact, you will be helping repair your joints. Whilst some may still need to undergo surgery, or stop some of the activities you enjoy, a vast majority of you will find a way to reduce the pain and improve your quality of life.