Osteoarthritis is a ‘wear and tear’ process which may affect any joint in the body leading to pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function. Doctors and Health Care Professionals treat and advise people with osteoarthritis on a daily basis. Symptoms can range from aching during and after periods of activity, to severe pain and which stops all activity and disturbs sleep. The osteoarthritic process often becomes apparent with ageing; however other factors that can contribute towards early osteoarthritis include previous fractures of a joint. Exercise, including local muscle strengthening and general aerobic fitness, is a core treatment for people with osteoarthritis irrespective of age, general health and severity of pain (NICE clinical guidance 59). Other factors that can help manage symptoms of osteoarthritis are weight loss, improved strength and fitness and pain relieving medication. As with many medical conditions, symptoms of osteoarthritis can be similar to other joint and muscle problems and it is important to seek advice further advice from your general practitioner should your symptoms persist.
People suffering from osteoarthritis often enter a pain cycle whereby pain reduces function causing increased joint stiffness which in turn causes more pain and further loss of function. This cycle can quickly exacerbate the symptoms of osteoarthritis leading to interference with activities of daily living and reduced quality of life. Health professionals can offer a range of techniques to help people with osteoarthritis to try and interrupt the pain cycle. Treatments may include lifestyle advice including exercise and self management techniques to improve function and sleep patterns, manual therapy, acupuncture, electrotherapy and alternative therapies such as reflexology and massage. It is recognised that therapies provided do not reverse any joint osteoarthritic changes but they may allow people to manage osteoarthritic symptoms to remain active and improve general well being. Information provided by Claire Doughney and Carly Bodill