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What is Osteoarthritis?

It is a chronic degenerative condition resulting from ‘wear and tear’ of the whole joint, including the bones, cartilage, ligaments and muscles. It can develop at any age but tends to be more common in people over the age of 40 years or those who have had joint injuries.

Can physiotherapy help people with osteoarthritis?

Yes. Physiotherapy treatment provides conservative but effective results with even severely damaged arthritic joints. A thorough physiotherapy assessment is vital for treatment prescription.

What causes osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis develops when the cartilage at the ends of bones becomes permanently damaged and can’t be fully repaired, leading to a permanent breakdown of the cartilage. These factors may increase your risk of developing osteoarthritis:

  • Joint injuries like sporting injuries, accidents or joint surgery

  • Overuse of joints like lifting heavy loads, kneeling or squatting, overusing a joint that has been injured and is not fully healed

  • Obesity and overweight

  • Family history of osteoarthritis

  • Age – the risk of developing osteoarthritis increases with age (but osteoarthritis is not actually a normal part of getting older)

  • Female gender – females carries a higher risk of getting osteoarthritis than being male

  • Other medical conditions – joints that have been damaged by other conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis is more likely to develop osteoarthritis. Some people are born with abnormalities of the joints, for example, Perthes’ disease of the hips, that cause early joint degeneration leading to osteoarthritis

What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis?

  • Painful joints – pain often worsens during or after movement, or after periods of inactivity

  • Stiff joints – these may be worse first thing in the morning and after periods of inactivity or towards the end of the day

  • Loss of flexibility – the affected joints may not be able to move as far as they used to

  • Grating feeling or crackling sounds in the joints

  • Change in appearance – affected joints may appear slightly larger than they used to (swollen joints) or develop hard bumps on them; some joints start to look like they are bending sideways e.g. the finger joints and the base of the big toe

  • Weakness or wasting of the muscles around the affected joints

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