I have Arthritis.....Osteoarthritis......what?

You’ve started having pain walking around the yard and going down the stairs and you’re getting frustrated. You approach your physician about your pain and frustrations and an X-ray is ordered for you. This may worry you; is something wrong? Is something injured? Breaking down? You get a call back that tells you that you have moderate Osteoarthritis and if you want to come in “we can start with injections."

But wait! Is something injured, breaking down? What is Osteoarthritis? Why am I being offered injections, will they fix the Osteoarthritis? What about my pain, why do I have pain?

Sound familiar? Let’s dive into the topic of Osteoarthritis, why we think it occurs and what we can do about it to decrease your pain and get you back to doing what you love!

Where does it come from?

Globally, we are living longer; giving us more time to spend with our families and friends, doing what we enjoy. The quality of our life (QOL) is a measurable index which attempts to quantify our physical and mental health as a direct link to our happiness through functional status, social support, etc.1  There are many factors that can influence our QOL, some can be “pre-ordained” by our genetics while others hinge on the health and lifestyle choices we make along the way.2 However, it is the combination of these two, the cards we are dealt and how we manage them, that appears to contribute to frequency of chronic illness and disease.

Why does Chronic Disease & Illness matter to me?

From the individual level to the economic structure of the nation, Chronic Disease and illness impacts population health.3 It is a major piece of healthcare expenditure, making up 86% of the nation’s healthcare costs and is analyzed by healthcare and government funded institutions, on a larger scale, to determine cost containment measures.4 Healthcare economic analyses strive to determine the cost-effectiveness and cost-utility of healthcare interventions to address chronic disease and illness such as Osteoarthritis, Diabetes, Hypertension, etc.5

What is Arthritis?

Arthritis is a broad category of over 100 conditions that originate with inflammation of joints leading to symptoms of stiffness, decreased function, and/or chronic pain.6 Osteoarthritis (OA), is a subset of Arthritis that is classified by bone and cartilage “wear and tear” degeneration which often leads to inflammation. It is the most common form of Arthritis and can be broken down into two classes: Primary which is highly correlated with age and Secondary, resulting from infection, joint injury, and hereditary, metabolic, developmental or neurologic disorders. Pain, stiffness, and decreased motion are common daily symptoms of Osteoarthritis making it exceedingly difficult to complete everyday tasks such as going up and down stairs or walking or standing for long periods of time.

Though exceedingly common, at least 24% of the population has knee OA. There is no cure; however, there are a variety of treatment options focused on addressing the symptoms of OA.8 These treatments range from supplements such as Glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate to intra-articular steroid or hyaluronic acid injections, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), acetaminophen and Physical Therapy.(7,9) Interestingly, the type of treatment you are most likely to be prescribed often has more to do with:

  • your weight and 
  • the type of Physician Specialist you see
Rather than the most effective treatment.9 

What actually works for Osteoarthritis?

In studying cost-effectiveness, researchers spend time analyzing outcomes of different treatments to see which has the largest margin of success combined with the lowest cost for a population of people with a particular condition, such as OA.5 Physical Therapy has been shown to be the cost-effective treatment for hip and knee osteoarthritis as well as low back pain, with a high rate of symptom reduction and low cost.5 

As a non-invasive treatment, successful Physical Therapy treatments most often contain:

  • exercise
  • manual therapy
  • education of activity and lifestyle modification to meet your goals and decrease chronic pain. 

Exercise, alone, has been shown to increase QOL by improving physical and mental health, and decreasing associated pain and stiffness.5 

Looking for real solutions? Look no further!

If you have been diagnosed with Osteoarthritis and have been left with unanswered questions, a local Physical Therapist is a great place to start. A Physical Therapist will evaluate you and provide you with real solutions to get you back on the right track! We have the right tools to not just help your symptoms but get to the crux of the mobility, motor control, and strength limiters to get you back in the yard, out on the path, or back to work.

Sarah K. Greenhagen, DPT, GCS