Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative process which causes progressive joint deterioration. It most often affects individuals in their 60s and 70s, but can affect younger people. OA commonly affects the knees, hips, hands and spine. Initial symptoms include recurrent joint pain and stiffness. Other symptoms may include joint swelling, redness, feeling of heat, and inability to move a joint. Symptoms are generally worse first thing in the morning and after prolonged periods of inactivity. The severity of these symptoms varies from person to person. With the same amount of joint deterioration, one individual may experience little or no pain, while another may suffer from disabling pain. With advanced OA, some people experience severe pain and joint damage and surgery is required.

Your Physiotherapist can help with the management of both mild and severe OA. He/she is a health care professional skilled in the assessment and treatment of the symptoms of OA. During the assessment, your physiotherapist will measure the mobility of your joint, the strength of the supporting muscles, and your activity limitations. Based on his/her findings, your Physiotherapist will prescribe an exercise and activity program specific to your needs.

An effective exercise program includes stretching and strengthening exercises which may:

  • improve joint lubrication and nutrition;
  • improve pain free range of motion;
  • improve muscle strength, balance, and stability;
  • improve circulation and endurance;
  • improve independent function and mobility; and
  • help reduce the amount of pain medication you require.

Other treatment techniques your Physiotherapist may use to decrease pain and slow the progression of symptoms include heat, electrical modalities (ultrasound & muscle stimulation), acupuncture, hydrotherapy, splints and advice on preventing further joint damage.

As mentioned above, with severe joint damage, your Orthopaedic Surgeon may recommend surgery. It is important that you prepare for your surgery by taking steps to ensure that your muscles are as strong and flexible as possible. This preparation allows you to get the most benefit from the procedure and to optimize recovery following surgery. To ensure you prepare for your surgery safely and effectively, contact your Physiotherapist who will provide you with an individualized exercise program to improve your flexibility and strength in the months before your operation.