Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. In fact, it is a growing epidemic in Canada which is only expected to rise as the population ages. Osteoarthritis is described as the “degeneration of joint cartilage and underlying bone” often resulting in pain and stiffness. Even though osteoarthritis can affect any joint in the body, the most commonly affected joints are in the hands, knees, hips and spine. It is often considered as “wear and tear”; however, it is believed instead that it may be due to abnormal stress or injury to the joint(s).
What we know is that osteoarthritis affects one in ten Canadians. By 2040, it is estimated that approximately 470,000 Canadians will suffer from osteoarthritis1. Unfortunately, for many, osteoarthritis is a painful condition that can make daily activities very difficult.
To best manage the symptoms and prevent the progression of the condition, it is important to pay attention to early signs. Although there is no cure for osteoarthritis, there are options that can reduce the risk and relieve pain, stiffness and improve function.
Here are some early signs to take note of2:
- Joint stiffness: Aching, pain and/or stiffness usually occur in the morning or after a period of inactivity and once movement resumes. Typically, stiffness may decrease after about 30 minutes.
- Joint swelling: A person may notice some swelling in the joints and a reduction in range of motion.
- Joint crepitus: The joint may grind, grate or experience a crackling sensation, commonly accompanied by a cracking sound.
- Pain: Pain is usually worse after activity and improves with rest. Early on, the pain may only be triggered by high-impact activities but as it progresses, there may be more frequent episodes of pain. The joint pain or discomfort may affect the person throughout day.
Here are some tips to help manage the condition and prevent progression:
Exercise: Exercise can help manage symptoms while increasing your endurance and strengthening the muscles that help support the joints. Good options for activity include walking, biking and swimming. Download the Straighten Up Canada app for easy to follow exercise videos. Get moving!
Weight management: Excess weight can be an important risk factor due to the additional stress put on your weight-bearing joints. Even a small amount of weight-loss can help reduce pain and limit further joint damage.
Mobility: Gentle stretching may help improve flexibility and mobility, while decreasing stiffness and pain. Exercises like yoga and tai chi can help manage stiffness.
Heat and cold: Applying heat and cold can help relieve pain when aggravated. Heat can relieve stiffness, while ice may help with pain.
Manual therapy: Manual therapy can help provide treatment not only for pain management, but help improve function and prevent progression. Addressing biomechanical dysfunctions can help relieve pressure on joints.
Positive attitude: Studies have demonstrated that a positive attitude can help increase a person’s ability to manage pain.
Like all medical conditions, it’s important to ask questions and get the appropriate information to best manage the symptoms and slow down progression. Osteoarthritis can alter the way you live your life, speak to your chiropractor today.
References 1 Claire Bombardier, The Impact of Arthritis in Canada: Today and over the Next 30 Years, http://www.ergoresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Impact%20on%20arthrisis%20in%20Canada_Today%20and%20over%20the%20next%2030%20years.pdf 2Arthritis Society of Canada, Osteoarthritis, http://arthritis.ca/understand-arthritis/types-of-arthritis/osteoarthritis