Osteoarthritis is a painful whole joint condition that is influenced by many joint and person specific factors, and not simply a "wear and tear" problem. It is more common that high blood pressure and diabetes, and is the most common lifestyle disease in people over 65 years.
You do not need an x-ray to get a diagnosis of osteoarthritis. A physiotherapist can diagnose OA by careful clinical assessment, your signs and symptoms and your risk factors to the disease.
The most common joints of the body that are affected are the hip, knee and fingers. It is not always clear which structures of the knee become sensitised and cause pain. The knee joint, for example, is made up of cartilage, menisci, articular capsule, synovial fluid, ligaments and muscles all of which could be a source of pain.
Some common signs of hip or knee OA are pain with weight bearing, stiffness, reduced range of motion, sometimes swelling or red joints. Common problems might be walking for long periods, running, standing from a chair, gardening, putting socks and shoes on.
Best first line treatment for OA is education, exercise and weight loss (where appropriate).
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) recommend all people with hip and knee OA should be offered exercise:
“We strongly recommend offering land based exercise for all people with knee and hip OA to improve pain and function regardless of their age, structural disease severity, functional status or pain levels.” RACGP
There is a program developed by researchers in Denmark to provide first line care to those with OA, called GLA:D (Good Life with osteoArthritis: Denmark). It is now offered in Australia. The program consists of education and physiotherapist supervised exercise, and entry into a national database. Results from GLA:D research found improved joint confidence, reduced pain, improved quality of life and less likely to feel the need for surgery.
If you or someone you know would like to learn more about OA or the GLA:D program, get in touch!