Osteoarthritis, Osteoarthritis, Osteoarthritis, Osteoarthritis, Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis, or more commonly known as arthritis, is when the cartilage of a joint breaks down overtime. Our joints go through a completely natural ageing process whereby the smooth surface of our joints deteriorate. Arthritis is essentially the pain and swelling of a joint that is associated with the ageing process.
We treat clients with arthritis on a weekly basis and we are regularly educating them on the common misconceptions that they hold.
Many people assume ‘there’s nothing that can be done – it’s just arthritis’, but that is completely false. Whilst there is nothing that can be done to reverse any changes within the joint, there’s many things that can be done to improve your pain.
It may also be interesting to know that 43% of people over the age of 40, with completely pain free knees, had ‘Arthritic changes’ on MRI scans of their knees. What does this tell us? That these changes in joints, due to age, don’t always equal pain! This can be life changing for some people as although you may have had your arthritis ‘confirmed’ by an X-Ray/MRI scan, it doesn’t mean you have to accept being in pain.
So what can we do to reduce the chance of being in pain?
Your main priority is to strengthen the muscles surrounding the joints. Arthritis occurs when excessive forces are placed on a joint, but if your muscles are stronger, more of the force will be absorbed. For example, when playing tennis, you’ll be driving a lot of force through your knee when playing. However, if your leg muscles are stronger then they’ll help absorb the forces put through the knee and this reduces the total stress that it’s under. Stronger muscles = more robust joints = less pain.
So how do we get our muscles stronger? In as simple terms as possible it’s moving an external force (weight/band/bodyweight), until fatigue, 3 x a week. My go to recommendation would be 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions and choosing around 3-4 exercises. If you do this 2-3 x a week for at least 8 weeks you will see a huge difference in your pain.
The next thing we need to do is prevent a ‘boom and bust’ situation which is really common in people with arthritis. People tend to move through this continuous cycle: feel good – overdo it – pain – have to rest.
People spend their time bouncing between overdoing the activity and having to rest due to the pain. The key is to find the middle ground, whereby you’re not overdoing it, but you’re still able to do the things you love and your pain levels are manageable. Everyone is different…listen to your body!
Managing your load is just as important for you as it is for professional athletes.
Stay hydrated, this is essential. Dehydration = increased pain levels, it’s really that simple.
Certain foods increase inflammation within the body and the main culprit is highly processed foods. If you want to go to the extreme… if it comes in a packet, avoid it!
Naturally, different foods affect people in different ways. Some people will find that eating dairy products will flare up their arthritic pain, whilst others remain unaffected. The best thing to do is track what you eat and how that changes your pain. If you notice a pattern between certain foods and your pain increasing, try to avoid them where you can.
There are additional benefits to eating well and exercising, your weight decreases too! There are a number of benefits to healthy weight loss, but let’s look specifically at how that affects your arthritis.
The main reason is the metabolic benefits on the body to reducing body fat, if this is too high. High body fat will increase inflammation in the body, therefore increasing the risk of pain.
Also an 130kg individual with an arthritic ankle is loading the joint considerably more with every single step compared to a 90kg individual. The less bodyweight we have, the less stress on our joints.
I’d always recommend starting non-impact sports like cycling, rowing, swimming and resistance training when initially trying to lose weight, as high impact activity like running could put excessive stress on the body.
Glucosamine is quite popular and often advertised as being beneficial for joints and arthritis. There’s unfortunately no good quality evidence that it actually helps. Although, that’s not to say there aren’t people who have benefitted on an individual basis and there’s certainly no harm in taking them.
You may have heard of the anti-inflammatory benefits of turmeric and there is actually some evidence that suggests supplementing it can improve your arthritis. I would definitely recommend regular supplementation of this.
You may have been offered a steroid injection for your arthritis. Osteorthritis is an inflammatory condition and a steroid injection is essentially an anti-inflammatory solution that is applied to a joint. They can improve pain but they’re only a short term fix to a long term problem. They are best used in conjunction with strength exercises, especially if a joint is so swollen and painful that it is hard to complete the exercises. Chronic reliance on steroid injections can actually contribute to wearing the joint down further.
Obviously anti-inflammatory medications like Ibuprofen and Naproxen can improve your pain but again, these can have harmful affects on the body if taken for long periods of time and should not be relied on. Always speak with your GP about taking any medication.
Living with arthritis can be frustrating but often people aren’t doing everything they can to improve their pain and quality of life. I’ve previously worked with patients who had been advised to see me for strengthening exercises ahead of their hip and knee replacement surgeries. By implementing the above strategies we were able to reduce their pain so much so, that they managed to either delay or even avoid surgery altogether.
Through a personalised and structured plan, along with education on management strategies, we can have a huge impact on your pain!
Contact us so we can help you get out of pain and back to doing what you love.