Osteoarthritis is the most common type of joint inflammation. It affects most people as they age. The affected joints undergo a gradual mechanical wearing, which causes irritation and inflammation resulting in progressive stiffening of those joints, weakening of the muscles and increasing pain. Eventually, the pain and dysfunction might become so bad to necessitate joint replacement surgery.
The good news is that this progression can be slowed, stopped and even reversed by exercise. You may think that loading a sore joint with exercise will make it worse. In fact, all the research has shown that exercise will have a beneficial effect on joint function and reduction of pain.
In a normally functioning joint, most of the impact force across the joint surface is absorbed by the muscles controlling that joint. Therefore, it is very important to have properly functioning muscles to absorb the impact forces and protect the joint surface from further damage. Exercise will also bring oxygen and nutrients to the joint and surrounding structures as well as removing waste products.
A properly functioning muscle requires strength, co-ordination and endurance. If any of these are lacking then the joint surfaces will be absorbing more force than they should. Muscle fatigue, weakness or poor co-ordination will also cause faulty movement patterns to develop which will further add to joint stress.
To optimize joint health and function you need to make sure the joint has as full a range of motion as possible, that it is moving correctly and that the muscles controlling that joint are strong enough to protect the joint surface from injury.
Even if you already have a stiff and sore joint it will respond to exercise. I would recommend you have it assessed by a therapist for the best exercise prescription, and your therapist can also apply mobilizing techniques to restore lost range of motion in the affected joints. Even joints that have been stiff for a long time can respond dramatically to the many mobilization techniques now used.
Don’t wait for joint surgery, you may not need it.
To find a Lifemark clinic near you, please visit www.lifemark.ca/locations for a listing of sites that offer service support for osteoathritis.