The main symptoms of OA are pain, stiffness and limited joint movement. At first pain is felt during and after activity, but as the condition worsens pain may be felt during minor movements or even at rest. Affected joints may become enlarged and tender, affecting fine motor skills and leading to difficulty in performing everyday activities (2).
Osteoarthritis can impact on every aspect of life, including an individual’s ability to be independent, their social life, relationships and emotional wellbeing.
Who is affected?
OA is the most common cause of arthritis in Australia affecting 1 in 11 Australians, 2 out of 3 of these are female. 1 in 4 people with OA self-report fair or poor health compared to 1 in 8 without this condition. There is a rise in people requiring joint replacement therapy due to OA. The prevalence of OA increases with age. After the age of 45 the prevalence rises sharply.
Signs and Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
Prevention: What can you do?
Maintain a healthy weight
Excess weight is one of the greatest risk factors for OA. Extra weight places additional pressure on weight bearing joints such as the hips and knees. Each extra kilo adds 4 kilos of extra stress on the knees and 6 extra kilos of stress on the hips. The extra pressure breaks down the cartilage leading to the onset of OA. Losing even a few kilos can reduce joint stress and inflammation, cutting your risk of OA in half (3).
Physical activity is the best available treatment for OA. It’s also one of the best ways to keep joints healthy in the first place. As little as 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise five times a week helps joints stay limber and strengthens the muscles that support and stabilize your hips and knees. Exercise also strengthens the heart and lungs, lowers diabetes risk and is a key factor in weight control.
Because cartilage doesn’t heal well, an injured joint is nearly seven times more likely to develop OA than one that was never injured. Injuries are not always avoidable. Taking measures such as using protective gear, wearing knee pads for soccer and hockey and using slide away bases in baseball can help to reduce risk of injury. At home or work, use your largest, strongest joints for lifting and carrying and take breaks when you need to.
How can massage help?
Even though OA is defined as a joint disease, the muscles connected to the affected joint are also involved (4). Massage may help to reduce Inflammation, increase flexibility and ROM of the effected joint. Thus reducing the symptoms of the effected joint and increasing the person’s quality of life.
Studies have indicated that there was significant improvement in pain and other symptoms with 60 minute weekly massage therapy treatments (5). As part of a rehabilitation program, post injury massage can also help return the joint to a normal functional state and may reduce the risk of further cartilage breakdown.
by Ben Hewitt
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