Osteoarthritis: Elaine reveals her experience of the condition
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Osteoarthritis roughly affects more than eight million people in the UK, most commonly affecting the knee joint. What are the telling signs of the condition? According to leading charity Versus Arthritis, osteoarthritis will cause the knee to feel “painful and stiff at times”. The charity explained that osteoarthritis occurs when the joint changes shape or structure.
In healthy joints, the end of bones are covered in cartilage – a smooth and slippery surface.
This supple cartilage enables the bones to move against each other without friction.
However, osteoarthritis develops when the cartilage begins to thin and roughen, causing friction in between two sets of bones.
People who have osteoarthritis may find that only one knee is affected, which may feel worse at the end of the day, or when you move your knee.
Osteoarthritis typically develops over a couple of years “that only causes fairly small changes in just part of the knee”.
“The pain can be felt all around your knee, or just in a certain place such as the front and sides,” Versus Arthritis noted.
There may be a creaking or crunching noise as you move, and the pain may ease with rest.
However, even though it may be tempting not to move the knee (in order to avoid pain), this would be one of the worst things you could do for the condition in the long-term.
“Joints need to be exercised regularly to keep them healthy,” assured Versus Arthritis.
“It’s very important to keep moving if you have osteoarthritis of the knee.”
Finding the “right” balance between exercise and rest is key, as too much movement increases how much pain one feels whereas too much rest causes stiffness.
In order to find the right fit for you, seek the advice of a physiotherapist.
What are the benefits of exercise?
When it comes to osteoarthritis of the knee, regular movement helps to strengthen the muscle around the knee.
Moreover, exercise helps to improve your posture and to lose weight, thereby putting less pressure on the joints.
One activity to consider is hydrotherapy, otherwise known as aquatic therapy, which is where you get the muscles and joints working in a heated pool.
The pool is warmer than a regular swimming pool, so it can be “soothing and relaxing”.
Weight-bearing exercises are also important, such as walking, to help strengthen bones; in order to promote joint flexibility, stretching is ideal.
Aerobic exercise can also be useful as it releases pain-relieving hormones called endorphins.
Examples of aerobic exercises include cycling, swimming, walking, which should be done for nearly three hours each week.
“You can spread this out over the week and don’t need to do it all in one go,” added Versus Arthritis.
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