Osteoarthritis is a condition most predominant in those aged over 45 where the smooth cartilage on joint surfaces gets worn away over time and therefore causes pain. For many people it is part of the ageing process – some people may have severe osteoarthritis and be symptom free, some may have mild arthritis and have a lot of pain. Nevertheless, physios will treat everyone as an individual. Although osteoarthritis is is not reversible, there are a lot of things you can do to manage your symptoms and your physio can guide you along the way.
Over the Christmas period we slip out of routine, which is why we’ve put together our 6 top tips to keeping on top of your symptoms in the build up to Christmas!
- Muscle strengthening exercises: If you have been experiencing osteoarthritic pain you tend to use the joint less, and often without realising you compensate with other joints. As a result the muscles get weaker so more load goes through the joint. Your physio can give you specific, targeted exercises to help build up the strength in these muscles. Try building your exercises into your morning routine before you get busy with the Christmas fun.
- Muscle stretches: When you are in pain you might not be using your joints to their full range of motion. As a result, they may become tighter and further limit your movement. Your physio will be able to identify these muscles and provide you with stretches to help you move to your full potential! Doing these after you have been on your feet or before bed can be a great way to ensure your muscles recover from periods of increased activity.
- Heat: Heat is fantastic for managing arthritic pain, helping all your muscles relax and promoting bloodflow. Heat bags, hot water bottles or hot baths are perfect!
- Pain relief: Many people are adverse to taking pain relief in case it hides symptoms, however it really helps us as Physios to treat you if you take pain relief before you come, otherwise it limits what we can do to help! Being on top of your pain is crucial in managing your arthritis so if you feel your pain is not controlled then discuss this with your GP.
- Pace what you do: Many people have good and bad days with their symptoms and it is so important you pace yourself on a good day as this makes your bad days much easier! After all we want you to be busy enjoying the festive season, not consumed with your symptoms.
- Most importantly keep moving! If you have a creaky hinge, you’ll put a lubricant in it to make it move freely. Your joints should be treated the same. Your body releases its own lubricant to help your joints move smoothly so in an arthritic joint it’s so important to keep active to ensure your joints don’t get too stiff!
Written by Emily Branch, Physiotherapist