Osteoarthritis (or OA) is a lifelong joint disease that can start without any obvious reason. OA is a disease that affects the whole joint, and is the leading cause of inactivity in people over 65 years of age. OA can affect any joint with cartilage covering the ends of the bones. As the cartilage degrades over time, the thinning of the protective surfaces can increase the level of wear and tear. The prevalence of OA increases with age, however progressing age alone does not result in OA.
Cartilage needs to be appropriately “loaded” to regenerate itself. When loaded and unloaded synovial fluid is pumped in and out of the cartilage. This stimulates new development of cartilage which improves its shock absorbing capacity and can help begin repairs. People who are not physically active can develop bad cartilage quality. These changes are similar to changes seen in muscles and bone from inactivity, and happen within weeks or months of being inactive.
The most probable link between weak muscles and OA is the loss of shock absorption that comes from having weaker muscles. However, it is not only the muscle strength but how you move and load the joints that absorb the stresses of daily activities. If you have poor muscular control then you are not moving with precision. The pain that people experience with OA is often more dependent on muscle strength rather than on structural changes seen on X-ray.
The link between X-ray changes and OA symptoms is generally poor. About half the people who experience knee pain have no visible changes on their X-ray. Vice versa, X-ray changes may be present, and you may not have any joint symptoms therefore X-rays alone are not a good method to diagnose OA. Despite the structural changes of OA, the symptoms can be reduced or disappear with the right exercise approach.
Find out how the GLA:D™ knee and hip program for osteoarthritis at AB Physiotherapy might help you.
Find out more with our Newsletters and Workshop dates