You would be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard of, or doesn’t know of someone, affected be osteoarthritis (OA). OA is very common, affecting 1 in 6 Canadians, and only expected to become more prevalent in the coming years. It’s seen more often with age, and tends to affect the large weight-bearing joints such as the knees and hips most commonly.
Now often when someone hears the term OA, they immediately associate it with a one way ticket to a joint replacement surgery… But did you know that the research suggests education, exercise, and weight loss (if needed) should be the first line of treatment before joint replacement is even considered?
The fact that this isn’t common knowledge is a problem. One of our Physiotherapists, Kenny Gilfoy, recently attended a course hosted by GLA:D Canada who aim to make exercise a priority in those with hip and knee OA. They suggest a 6 week exercise program led by a Physiotherapist to address strength, mobility, and balance. They also suggest education sessions for each participant around the topics of OA, self-management, coping, and how exercise and active living can help.
Now I know that this sounds like quite a bit of work, but based on the positive outcomes they’re achieving, it’s well worth the effort. They’ve found that this program can help to decrease pain intensity, increase quality of life, limit the need for pain killers, and decrease time loss at work due to sick days. Ideally, this may also help to delay or prevent the need for hip and knee replacements altogether for some as well.
So you may be wondering what these exercises are all about. Well they consist of a combination of aerobic, neuromuscular, and mobility exercises targeted at improving general fitness, function, and range of motion of the affected joint. Aerobic exercises are important to maintain and improve general fitness. As mentioned in a previous blog post, aerobic exercise can help manage a variety of conditions, including OA. The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology actually recommends that we get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate physical activity weekly. This can be achieved through activities such as walking, biking, or swimming. Neuromuscular exercises focus on the quality of the movement through certain tasks such as getting in and out of a chair or going up and down steps. These exercises are important as those affected by OA have impaired balance and sense of space. Lastly, the mobility exercises are important to maintain a functional range of motion. It is important to maintain as much mobility as you can, as certain tasks such as moving around in bed, going down stairs, or reaching into lower cupboards require a certain amount of movement that can decrease in some with OA.
If you or someone you know is affected by OA and are interested in hearing more about how exercises can help, contact us or book in for further information.