As we age our bodies may be prone to developing ‘wear and tear’ diseases. One such common condition is osteoarthritis which occurs in joints such as the knee and hip. In healthy joints cartilage covers the ends of each bone to form a joint. The purpose of cartilage is to provide a smooth surface which allows for fluent movement of the joint. Over time, or through injury and incident, the cartilage can wear, break down or chip off causing the previously smooth surface to become rough or thin. Changes in cartilage can cause pain, swelling, and problems with joint movement. During the process of osteoarthritis bones which form the joint may break down, become rough, or form spurs. As the cartilage continues to wear and create further damage, bones may end up rubbing against each other causing further joint pain and damage.
There are a number of risk factors which can lead to the development of osteoarthritis. These include:
Being overweight or obese
Injury to a joint
Repetitive kneeling or squatting
Repetitive heavy lifting
With an ageing workforce and almost two thirds of Australians being overweight or obese, we see a large percentage of workers who may be at risk of developing osteoarthritis. When the physical work of tradespeople is thrown into the mix, it starts to be evident how large a proportion of Australian workers are susceptible to developing such a condition.
While it may seem counterintuitive, exercise has been found to be beneficial to the treatment of osteoarthritis and also assists with pain management of this condition.
Exercise is Medicine recommends a combination of aerobic, strength and balance training to assist people with osteoarthritis. Poor strength has often been found in people with osteoarthritis so resistance training with standard weights and dumbbells, body weight, or elastic tubing can assist in managing osteoarthritis. Resistance training should focus on the thigh, hip and calf muscles.
High impact aerobic exercises such as running should be avoided and instead replaced with low impact exercises including cycling, rowing or using an elliptical trainer. Swimming or water-based exercise can also be effective for osteoarthritis sufferers as the buoyancy of water reduces loading through the joints.
Depending on the severity of osteoarthritis, balance exercises and stretching can be beneficial to assist with maintaining flexibility and a good range of motion through the joints.
Maintaining appropriate physical activity levels and a good diet is important for osteoarthritis sufferers. This is not only important for joint health, but also assists in reducing excess body weight.
Remember, if you are concerned that you may have osteoarthritis, consult with your general practitioner to receive specific recommendations for you.
Symptoms of osteoarthritis:
Pain and stiffness within the joint
Reduced range of motion through the joint
Crepitus – grating, grinding, crunching sensation on movement.