A Physical Therapist Discusses Osteoarthritis
With OA, the main complaints are pain, stiffness or even a change in the way a joint functions. For instance, you may feel your knee giving away or you start experiencing limited motion. These are all signs and symptoms of OA.
And yes, there are exercises that can help improve the discomfort and pain! From a physical therapy standpoint, I recommend low intensity and low impact exercise.
There is a saying in orthopaedics that motion is lotion for the joints. As we get older, we don’t develop as much synovial fluid (lubrication) for our joints. And what little fluid we do develop isn’t absorbed as well by the articular cartilage. To help minimize these joint changes, it is important to gradually increase activity and perform lower impact exercises such as water aerobics, bike, and treadmill activities. My experience has shown that even making small changes in your daily activities results in major improvements in your overall health.
Strength training exercises are immensely effective as well. Patients should begin with basic isometric exercises. These exercises, which do not increase the force on the load-bearing joint, are a good way to start building your muscle tone.
As your muscle tone improves, you should work on closed chain exercises (where your foot is in contact with the ground) to build strength in your quadriceps. These exercises include small step- ups and ‘sit and stands’ that are performed on an elevated surface such as a tall chair. Strengthening the quadriceps is very beneficial as they have the ability to cushion the knee by absorbing forces.
Rob Seahorn earned his BS PT (Physical Therapy) 1994 from UT Memphis and is also a CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist). He can be reached at 865-633-0259.