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Physiotherapy in the management of osteoarthritis

BikeOsteoarthritis of the knee is a condition which can be painful and affect your mobility, resulting from the degradation of cartilage within the knee joint which in turns creates bone on bone contact and the root cause of the pain experienced. This condition is gradual with no clear catalyst, though it typically affects the older generation and seen as a 'wear and tear' condition. Previous ligament injuries, hereditary conditions and body weight are all seen as other potential factors in its onset.

Whilst there is no cure for the condition there are a number of surgical and non-surgical treatment options available from painkillers and exercise to the more serious of options which include partial and full knee replacements.

A contradictory concept?

If you have pain in your knee which prevents you from being mobile then being prescribed physiotherapy and an exercise programme as a treatment solution may seem somewhat contradictory and infeasible, but not necessarily the case. The problem faced by many sufferers is that a failure to undertaken exercise can lead to weight gain, which in turn can increase the pressure on the affected knee joint causing a greater amount of pain and in turn reducing mobility further.

Moderate exercise however, especially in considering non-weight bearing activities such as swimming, actually release endorphins into the body which act as a natural painkiller. It is these natural painkillers which can allow you to remain active for longer, which in turn can help to control your weight and thus reduce the load being applied to the affected knee which can enhance daily mobility.

The use of physiotherapy

Following diagnosis of osteoarthritis of the knee a physiotherapist will be able to work with you on the creation of a personalised exercise programme, working within your limits and gradually enhancing the levels of activity over time to avoid pushing yourself too much. They may also focus on strengthening exercises focussed on the quads to alleviate pressure on the knee, though again this can be somewhat complex as strengthening exercises can cause more strain on the knee joint.

A physiotherapist will also be able to work on appropriate warm up and cool down activities which focus on protecting the knee joint when active as well looking at stretching techniques and even sports massages to help the joint and surrounding muscles.

Your physiotherapist may also recommend the use of a knee brace to be worn when exercising and unload the pressure of the affected side of the knee to enable you to remain mobile for longer and adhere to the training programme devised.

If you suspect you are suffering from osteoarthritis then you should seek a professional diagnosis to enable early treatment and manage the condition effectively and where your doctor will be able to discuss the treatment options available to you.