Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease, affects a large number of the population and can be well managed by maintenance physiotherapy and a prescribed exercise program.
Intermittent flare-ups in arthritic joints are most common because the normal range and function of the joint are disrupted due to damage. This is tolerated until function is significantly affected. It is often at this point that patients will make an appointment to see their doctor or health professional.
Our Physiotherapy treatment provides conservative but effective results with even severely damaged arthritic joints. A thorough assessment is vital for treatment prescription.
A range of modalities include but are not limited to:
- joint mobilisation
- exercise prescription
- electrotherapy modalities
- Aquatic therapy (Water therapy)
- Supports/aids and education. These modalities:
- Aim to reduce pain
- Improve range of movement and strengthen key muscle groups. This will allow the patient to take control of his or her condition and to perform daily functions with less disruption. Specific exercise programs can assist with weight loss which may be vital to recovery by reducing the load that is placed on the joint. Once the pain is under control and function is regained it is essential that some type of maintenance program is initiated.
Intermittent treatment when the joint becomes acute and the patient is forced back to his or her health professional is not the answer to long-term management for OA.
A home exercise program if done regularly will assist in reducing additional osteoarthritic flare-ups. Unfortunately long term compliance with this management plan does not always occur. Many patients will discontinue exercising once pain has subsided and function semi-restored until the next flare-up of pain. This can create further joint damage and deterioration by the repetitive cycle of exercise and inactivity. A maintenance physiotherapy visit every 4-6 weeks is the most effective method of maintaining joint range and strength. It will also allow the physiotherapist to review, modify and reinforce the prescribed exercises. Research indicates that while maintenance is ongoing, the overall medical costs are reduced for the patient due to the control of acute flare-ups.