What is osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a disease of the joints, often of the hip and knee. Not everyone gets osteoarthritis: it is therefore not a standard part of aging. Osteoarthritis can also occur at a younger age, for example after a knee injury or surgery on the joint. The disease is chronic and slowly progressive. Osteoarthritis affects various parts in and around the joint.
The symptoms of osteoarthritis
Pain is often the first complaint. For some people the symptoms, such as pain and difficulty with activities, remain at the same level for a long time. With others it is slowly getting worse.
Osteoarthritis can cause all sorts of complaints over time.
- Muscle weakness
- Knee instability
- Cracking noise when moving
- Move less easily
- Inflammation of the joint
- A different position of the knee
- Difficulty with activities from daily life
What you can do yourself
With osteoarthritis is definitely something to do:
• Move more
• Gain more muscle strength in your legs
• Ensure that you are not becoming overweight
If you handle your complaints well, you can prevent osteoarthritis getting worse. Sometimes the symptoms even decrease. But how do you do that? With osteoarthritis it is extra important that you exercise enough, even if this is not easy. We recommend that you exercise for half an hour at least five days a week, such as walking or cycling.
Why exercise is so important
- Exercise makes the muscles, tendons and ligaments around your joints stronger.
- People with osteoarthritis have less joint fluid. This causes (starting) stiffness. If you move, extra fluid is released. You can move your joints a little more smoothly.
- Exercise makes you happier. Your brain gets more oxygen. This allows you to think clearer and easier.
Moving is good, but keep in mind that you don’t overload yourself. Do you have extra pain or swelling? This can mean that your joint is (has been) overloaded.
How to prevent overloading
- Take occasional breaks during exercise
- Change your posture regularly
- Make variation in your movements in order to relieve your joint
- Use aids (such as a walking stick)
- Make sure you are not overweight. Less body weight puts less pressure on the joint.
The treatment of osteoarthritis
An X-ray is not required to diagnose osteoarthritis. A doctor or therapist can determine on the basis of your symptoms whether they are caused by osteoarthritis.
Sometimes giving information and advice about what you can do yourself is not enough. In that case, appropriate treatment is required. In the first instance you can go to your doctor and / or a therapist for such treatment. The following treatments are effective:
Medications can help against pain or inflammation in the joint. This makes exercise less effort and you can do the exercises better. You can turn to your doctor for advice about medication.
Are you unable to move and do exercises without assistance? Then you can get help from a physiotherapist. Physiotherapy helps just as well (and sometimes even better) than medication and you do not suffer from unpleasant side effects. During the treatment you will also receive an explanation and tips from your physiotherapist on how to deal with your complaints.
Reduce your weight (if needed)
Are you overweight? If you lose weight, your complaints will decrease. Less body weight puts less pressure on the joint. Even if you lose a little bit of weight (for example, five percent of the total body weight) you already have less trouble
Have you tried these treatments for a long time without it helping? Then surgery is a possibility. During surgery, the surgeon replaces the joint with an artificial joint. It is important to first properly discuss the advantages and disadvantages of an operation with a doctor.
What physiotherapy can do
You come to the physiotherapist if you have a lot of osteoarthritis or if you are being operated for it.
First you discuss with your physiotherapist what your symptoms are and what you need. This is followed by a physical examination and the physiotherapist may use measuring instruments. The physiotherapist takes the time for these three components, so that he or she knows what your symptoms are and what you want to achieve. Then the physiotherapist decides, together with you, which treatment is best.
There are different types of treatments. Together with you, our physiotherapist chooses a treatment or a combination of the various treatments.
Information and advice
You will receive information from your physiotherapist about (dealing with) osteoarthritis. This information is tailored to your personal situation.
In addition to information and advice, exercise therapy is sometimes required. Your physical therapist will decide with you how much exercise therapy you need. With exercise therapy it is important to work towards a goal. You discuss this goal in advance with your physical therapist. It is important that you also remain active after exercise therapy has ended.
In principle, other treatments are not recommended for physiotherapists because they do not adequately help with osteoarthritis. In general, information, advice and exercise therapy are the most important in the treatment of hip osteoarthritis and knee osteoarthritis.
Have you achieved the goal that you have determined in advance with your physiotherapist? Then the treatment can stop. Our therapist will ask what you thought of the treatment and give advice for things you can continue to do at home. You may agree to come back again in a while. Then you can discuss how it goes without help from the physiotherapist.