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What is Osteoarthritis?

What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis describes degeneration of the joint surface or cartilage in a joint. This occurs due to an abnormal strain on a certain joint, often from a biomechanical fault over time. Joints that are commonly affected include the knees, hips, spine, shoulders, and hands. Osteoarthritis can also be present due to the aging process. Often, mild arthritis that are seen on X-rays are not causing any pain and are asymptomatic. When the joint degenerates over time, you may start to feel stiffness, soreness, and an inability to move the joint as well as you did in the past. As the symptoms start to impair your ability to carry out daily activities, physiotherapy can help minimize symptoms and slow down the progression of your osteoarthritis.

What are my treatment options for osteoarthritis?

With mild to moderate cases with osteoarthritis, physiotherapy and exercise are the best ways to reduce pain and maintain or increase functions and activities of daily living. As osteoarthritis is a progressive condition, when the osteoarthritis becomes more severe, or “bone-on-bone”, meaning the cartilage has degraded to nearly nothing, surgery is the last option. At this time, you may have significant restrictions with activities, including walking and climbing/descending stairs. Total joint replacement surgeries are commonly done in the hips and knees, and will require a full year of rehabilitation and physiotherapy afterwards.

How can physiotherapy help with my osteoarthritis?

Physiotherapy treatment for osteoarthritis includes patient education, pain management, manual therapy to maintain or increase your current level of movement in the joint, and exercise. Our physiotherapists will help you understand your specific condition and develop an individualized master health plan with the goal of providing you with strategies to manage your osteoarthritis on your own. Manual therapy, including mobilizations to

What kind of exercises can I do to prevent my osteoarthritis from worsening?

Depending on the area with osteoarthritis, different exercises can help maintain or increase your range of motion and decrease pain. Exercises should not be painful, but challenging. If you have osteoarthritis in your lower limbs (hips/knees/ankle), limit the amount of high impact activities you take part in (ie. running, jumping).


Written by: Danette Lam, MScPT