Osteoarthritis – What to do

By Physio Liz

Osteoarthritis is the most common joint disorder in the world, causing pain and loss of function in adult populations. It is responsible for many people dropping out of sport. Many are told “not to run or play high impact sport” because of their osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis usually affects the joints of the hands, ankles, knees or hips. It is usually associated with swelling, pain, and stiffness. Osteoarthritis of the lower limbs, can make it difficult to go up and down stairs, sit in low chairs or walk easily. Osteoarthritis of the shoulders, elbows or wrists can be tricky to manage taps, work in the garden or racquet sports.

Perhaps your doctor has told you they suspect early signs of osteoarthritis, or maybe you’ve seen some changes firsthand on an X-ray. This can be a quite unsettling to hear. However age related changes are normal and what you see on an image does not necessarily correlate with how you feel.

Some people will have very little pain or limitation yet on their images their joints are “bone on bone”. Other people will be in awful pain yet their imaging shows quite mild degeneration of the joint. Why is that?

The pain and swelling people with osteoarthritis feel, doesn’t simply come from the worn out cartilage. It also comes from the poor movement patterns around the joint that have developed over time. Changes in the joint surface can alter the joints range and make it clicky which is disconcerting, but isn’t always associated with pain. If the muscles around the joint aren’t working well they can cause pain too.

So what should you do if your joints are achey and sore? 

See a Vital Core Physiotherapist

Physiotherapists are a great first point of call when joint pain strikes. We will listen to you and your concerns. Vital Core physio’s will hear what you want to be able to do but can’t because of your joint pain. We’ll help set your goals. You can read more about goal setting here.

Vital Core physiotherapists will assess your range of motion at the joint, as well as your general posture, movement patterns and strength.

Together with your Vital Core physio you will make a plan of how to get you to your goals.

Physio’s can also provide manual therapy such as massage or gentle joint mobilisation to assist with pain relief. They can supply and fit braces to make movement easier.

Most importantly Vital Core physio’s provide an individualised graded exercise program based on all the information they have collected. They can guide and support you through this program adapting it to your feedback until you achieve your goals.

What sort of exercise?

The evidence overwhelmingly suggests that a combination of cardio and resistance training is the gold standard for health and wellbeing, with the World Health Organisation recommending a minimum of 150 total minutes of physical activity per week. That does not alter for those with osteoarthritis.

Exercising in a class is much more fun then going solo

Low impact closely supervised exercise classes such as Vital Core’s;

  • Strength and conditioning
  • Clinical Rehabilitation (formerly Clinical Pilates)
  • Mature Movers
  • Back to Basics mat classes
  • Strong core

These are all excellent ways to improve movement patterns and strengthen muscles around osteoarthritic joints. The supervision from our physiotherapists to ensure correct technique and an individualised program is advised.

Talk to your Vital Core physiotherapist, who can design an individually-tailored program for you. Take a moment to check out our class timetable.

What about medications?

Whilst we all want to be as natural as possible, there is a time and a place for the use of our modern medicines.

Medications for osteoarthritis such as paracetamol can have good effect when taken regularly. Anti-inflammatories can also provide relief by temporarily reducing swelling.

These medications act by stopping the pain message which reassures your brain that things are okay, makes exercising easier, and ultimately reduces the pain in a positive feedback loop. You will feel and move better – which is the ultimate aim.

Speak to your physiotherapist or GP if you are unsure which medication you should be taking and for how long. Be mindful that some people are sensitive to anti-inflammatories, and they must always be taken with food to reduce the risk of gut irritation.

Get started today

Osteoarthritis doesn’t have to drive you up the wall and lead to sleepless nights, or missing out on life. Getting on top of it can help you to keep up with the most important things – like chasing children, playing tennis or walking with your friends. The team at Vital Core physio will work with you so you get back to living the way you want. Book an appointment today.


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It’s easy to make a physiotherapy appointment. You don’t need a referral from your GP or specialist. You can just call and book yourself in, or use our online portal.

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