What is Osteoarthritis?
In general, osteoarthritis (aka arthritis) is the gradual breakdown of the cushion on the end of our bones called cartilage. It is typically diagnosed using imaging techniques such as X-Rays and MRIs and is mostly seen in knees, hands, hips and spine joints. Among other things, cartilage acts as a cushion to absorb forces that are put on the joints of the body.
With the degeneration of the cartilage, in combination with other factors such as age, diet, stress, sleep, and activity levels, the body may respond in a way to protect the area via pain and inflammation. This can lead to regular activities such as walking and stairs to become painful and you may notice swelling around the joint.
So what can you do?
There are many people living with osteoarthritis who are pain free (>43% of people over 40 years of age in this study https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/53/20/1268). So although there is some degeneration of the cartilage, it does not mean pain is inevitable. When trying to understand where your experience fits in with facts like these, it is really valuable to have a better understanding of how pain works and how many areas of our lives can influence it. To learn more about pain click here: What is pain
What we know for certain is that each individual experiences osteoarthritis in different ways, and unfortunately it isn’t as black and white as saying osteoarthritis is causing your pain. Following some of the tips below can be a great place to start.
Move More Throughout the Day
Keeping our bodies moving helps reduce inflammation, helps maintain lubrication of our joints and can reduce pain and stiffness. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, as additional movement throughout the day is beneficial. Starting 5-10 minute walks or general body movements every hour is helpful.
Add Resistance Exercises
Strength training is a scientifically proven management strategy for osteoarthritis. Among many other roles, stronger muscles help provide additional support by absorbing more load and building confidence in our bodies.
Reduce Stress and Improve Sleep:
When we are feeling stressed and tired we have less motivation and less ability to cope and manage our current pain. Having a stress management plan and a consistent bedtime routine can be a good start.
Set Goals and Keep Doing the Things You Enjoy
Becoming fearful and avoiding activities are two major factors in any persistent pain issues such as osteoarthritis. Coming up with goals to help maintain or return to activities we enjoy keeps us motivated and moving toward a better quality of life with osteoarthritis.
What can we do?
Knowing where to start can be the biggest challenge, especially when everything seems to be painful. Your health care team is here to educate you on the processes of osteoarthritis and the best starting points for you to best manage it. We help you come up with a plan to attain your goals in a way that best fits into your current lifestyle.
It is important to understand that despite an osteoarthritis diagnosis, there are many aspects within your control to keep doing things you enjoy. Starting with the few steps mentioned above can help you start moving forward as you live with osteoarthritis.