Early Signs and Managing Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a condition that affects the joints, specifically the smooth cartilage surface between bones that cushion the joints. Due to osteoarthritis, the joint surface thins/breaks down leaving the bone exposed, thus limiting the motion within the joint.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of Arthritis in Australia. According to a survey from the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2011-12, about 1.8 million Australians have this condition. It generally occurs in people over the age of 45 and the prevalence rises sharply as we age. It is also more common in females than males.

Only 1/3 of arthritis cases are progressive, yet many people report a constant increase in pain levels with time. This is generally due to the vicious cycle of inactivity. Generally, once diagnosed, people will begin to decrease their activity levels to manage their pain. As activity levels drop, muscle tissue will waste away, joint capsules will stiffen and swelling will increase due to decreased blood flow and movement of the joint. These all produce a decrease in physical condition, and generally an increase in weight. The greater the body weight, the greater the stress on joints and the greater the pain felt by Osteoarthritis.

Symptoms of osteoarthritis may vary between individuals and can also vary depending on the joints affected. Osteoarthritis tends to prevail slowly, often taking months to years to develop. Common symptoms include pain and joint stiffness, which is generally worse after sitting or periods of immobility. Other associated symptoms include muscular wasting, reduced strength, reduced mobility and difficulty with other daily activities.

There are several management options for treating osteoarthritis such as practising gentle exercises, for example, walking and hydrotherapy. Partaking in strengthening exercises is used to improve stability of joints leading to decreased pain. Keeping weight down in turn minimises stress on joints as does the use of walking sticks and frames.