Have you often heard of osteoarthritis being described as a ‘wear and tear’ condition of the joint? It is a common misconception that osteoarthritis is a condition based only on heavy or repetitive loads going through the joints, over years and years of our working and recreational lives. This would imply that only people working in heavy industries would get osteoarthritis, and that everyone in that industry would be expected to get the same levels of osteoarthritis. Likewise, people who work behind a desk or in a relatively sedate role shouldn’t be exposed to the toils of osteoarthritis.
With this basis of assumption, some people incorrectly concur that if ‘activity’ is what causes their pain, then ‘rest’ is what will fix it. Unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Osteoarthritis is a condition of the joints that is a culmination of many factors, but fundamentally it is an imbalance between the body’s natural degradation of old cells and regeneration of new cells in the body’s natural ageing process. This progression of the condition can be affected by
- Cartilage being exposed to too much load all at once (an acute injury)
- Loads over a long time (over use injury)
- Can happen with a normal load if the cartilage is diseased to start with.
Core to the common mis-management of osteoarthritis is the concept that people shouldn’t be exercising or exposing their joints to ‘further wear and tear’, as this will only accelerate their condition. A systematic review of randomised control trials was completed by Brica et. al. (2018) in the study Impact of exercise on articular cartilage in people at risk of, or with established, knee osteoarthritis: a systematic review of randomised control trials. In this review, Brica et. al. (2018) found 9 trials with a total of 14 comparisons of supervised exercise programs versus a control group that did not exercise. These control group comparisons included a range from non-exposure to exercise, to the use of TENS and heat packs, to the use of diet control medications. Whilst the quality and consistency among the studies was not optimal, the one consistent outcome that was shown was that the exercise groups did not suffer any further loss or damage to the articular cartilage.
For further advice on the correct type and amount of exercise you should be undertaking to optimally manage your osteoarthritic knees and hips, book in today with one of our physiotherapists and discuss our GLA:D program, which provides all the information and exercise you need to revolutionize your activity levels again.