Osteoarthritis – How to treat it

In the last blog we looked at the causes of osteoarthritis and here we’re going to look at the treatments.

Do I need a joint replacement?

knee surgery This is a common concern from patients but osteoarthritis can be managed in other ways.

In the last blog we talked about muscles offloading joints – by training muscles to work effectively to offload joints, the impact between the joint surfaces reduces and the inflammation (and associated pain) can settle down.

So how can we do this?

There are two key things we need to ensure the muscles are functioning properly:

  • Adequate muscle strength
  • Good muscle timing

Strengthening is fairly straightforward and your physio can help put together a plan for the gym or at home. So what about timing and how can you improve this?

Also called muscle sequencing, this is the subconscious skill of movement. When you land, your gluteus medius and minimus (amongst other muscles which also sound like Harry Potter spells) tense to prevent you collapsing. Others will come in later in order to push off for your next step of running. If this order was reversed, you may well collapse to the floor and at the very least you’d have an odd-looking stride.

Taking the knee as an example, research shows that your gluteus medius/minimus and quadriceps muscles are particularly important with regards to addressing pain in the knee.

Treatment would focus around strengthening such as this quads strengthening exercise.

And then this glut med/min one (adding resistance as you get stronger).

This would then progress onto something like this single leg squat.

On this exercise the knee will probably want to fall inwards as the hip goes outwards, so by aiming to keep a straight line down the outside of the leg you’re essentially training the skill of making these muscles work at the right time.

Whether you need pure strengthening, skill work or a combination of the two will be identified in the assessment and your physio can advise on the best course of action for you.

Our experience shows that this approach often yields good results. It will of course vary from person to person but it’s possible to get a full resolution of symptoms, or at the very least a significant improvement.

Our advice is that you don’t need to panic about osteoarthritis. It’s very treatable and even if you are one of the ones who ends up needing surgery, such as a joint replacement, you’ll often find that you can get back to your normal sporting activities as the new joints are made of pretty tough stuff these days.

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