Hip and knee arthritis (osteoarthritis or OA) is very common in older Canadians, with about half of us having knee OA by the time we are 70, and one fifth having hip OA.
What are the causes?
We once thought that arthritis occurred as part of the normal aging process. While the causes of OA are still not fully understood, we do know that moderate use of normal joints over the lifespan does not increase the risk of developing arthritis. We now know that OA begins with problems with the articular cartilage in joints. This cartilage is a thin layer of resilient tissue that lines the ends of every bone in a joint. It allows smooth movement of the joint and provides shock absorption.
Stresses on a joint, such as a ligament injury, repeated high loads or twisting stresses can cause damage to this joint cartilage. People with abnormal joint alignment or joint instability, or with decreased muscle strength, are at a higher risk for developing damage to the cartilage in their joints. That damage can progress and lead to arthritis over time. This arthritis ultimately involves the whole joint, including the bone, ligaments, and other joint structures.
What are the treatments?
Current research tells us that our joint cartilage needs a certain amount of ongoing “healthy” load to function properly. Exercises that target correct alignment of the joints and strengthen the muscles that support the hip and knee can decrease pain and improve function. Current research shows that a structured program of key exercises can significantly improve daily function and quality of life for those of us with hip/knee OA. Without education and guidance though, most people are uncertain of what activities to do and how to exercise safely.
Best practice guidelines for the treatment of hip and knee arthritis now recommend education and exercise as the first line of treatment for ALL people experiencing symptoms. Best Health Physio offers GLA:D, a licensed hip and knee exercise program consisting of supervised small group exercise sessions twice weekly with individual feedback and monitoring.