What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a chronic and progressive condition that mostly affects the hands, spine and joints such as hips, knees and ankles. With about 2.1 million (9%) of Australians reportedly having this condition, it is the most common form of arthritis and the predominant condition leading to knee and hip replacement surgery in Australia.  Although OA affects people of all ages, it is more common in people of 45 years old, with 1 in 5 Australians (21%) over the age of 45 having OA. It is most common in adults aged 80 years and older, with just over one-third (35%) of people in this age group reporting the condition

What can cause OA?

It is important to note here that it is currently not known why the breakdown in the repair process that leads to osteoarthritis occurs. However, several factors have been identified as contributors to the development of OA. These include previous joint injury, joint overuse, age, gender and being obese. As well as the aforementioned factors, there are studies to show that some local mechanical issues such as the adduction moment, malalignment of the knee cap, meniscal damage, altered quadriceps strength and lower limb mechanics potentially put the knee joint at increased risk of progression of OA. These are the factors that are able to be turned around by conservative treatment such as exercise.

How does Exercise Help?

Physical activity, or exercise, has been described as the best no-drug treatment for improving pain and function. Three kinds of exercise are important for people with osteoarthritis, exercises involving range of motion, also known as, flexibility exercises, endurance or aerobic exercises and strengthening exercises. Each type plays a different role in maintaining and improving the joints ability to move and function, although this blog will focus on the benefits of resistance exercise.

Muscle weakness, in particular, the quadriceps with regards to the knee joint, may be an important risk factor for knee OA in women with the quadriceps muscle found to be on average 20% weaker among those with radiographic signs of OA. Interestingly, this weakness seemed to predate the onset of disease in women, suggesting that weak quadriceps strength may be a risk factor for the subsequent development of symptoms. One consequence of quadriceps weakness is that the knee is rendered less stable during risky occupational or recreational activities. To the extent that they are able to improve the dynamic stability of the knee, quadriceps exercises may offer some protective advantage to patients who are routinely engaged in high-risk activities. Quadriceps strengthening exercises were found to lead to improvements in pain and function. Most strengthening exercise regimens were recommended to begin with isometric exercises and then advance to isotonic resistance exercises as tolerated.

As always, it is important to individualise exercise therapy for hip or knee OA, particularly considering individual patient preference, and ensure that adequate advice and education to promote increased physical activity is provided. Please feel free to get in contact with us here at Tucker Strength Performance on 0419 159 903, via our Facebook page or email us at contact@tuckerstrengthperformance.com.au