Joint pain happens to the best of us – osteoarthritis particularly becomes a real pain to some of us as we get older. People ask “why me?” It seems that there are many predisposing factors from genetics, to our activity levels, obesity, age, and previous joint injury. The condition can be present when there is pain on movement of a specific joint and you may find that you have early morning stiffness that lasts no longer than 30 minutes.
So what can you do to help yourself? What does the scientific evidence show?
- Body weight can have huge impacts on your arthritis. It makes sense– the heavier you are, the more weight your joints have to struggle putting up with. Think about your
- Footwear and the way you walk can significantly help to manage the condition. Imagine you have arthritis in your knees but you have an awkward flat footed posture. The uneven weight distribution could potentially cause more pain as it affects the kinetic chain higher up. Think about seeing a podiatrist or buying some arch supports.
- Another way to manage pain is using heat or ice therapy. If your joint is swollen, using ice can actually reduce the swelling by a process called vasoconstriction (or narrowing of the blood vessels to that joint). On the other hand many people prefer heat to help with stiffness – you can consider placing a tubigrip on your affected joint or placing a hot water bottle on it.
- The right exercise in key!!! Low impact exercise to strengthen your muscles can help you manage your condition and prevent further deterioration. Swimming, cycling, thai chi, yoga, and pilates are all great sports that are low impact. Physiotherapists can also point you in the right direction and can teach you specific strengthening and stretching exercises that are right for you. Physiotherapists can also use mobilisation techniques, electrotherapy and acupuncture to help give you pain relief.
- If you feel unstable on your feet, don’t hesitate to use a walking stick or an appropriate walking aid assessed by your physiotherapist.
- Painkillers – this can definitely help. If you are unsure about what to take, speak to your GP.
- Local steroid injections – this can be beneficial but many people I have treated say that the positive effects can be short lived.
- The last resort is a joint replacement. Ideally you want to avoid going down this route by using the above self-management techniques. I have however rehabilitated many people following surgery and it has given them a new lease of life. Speak to your orthopaedic consultant who can tell you whether you are eligible for one.