All posts in Osteoarthritis

Knee Osteoarthritis

Knee Osteoarthritis

What is it?

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common degenerative joint disease that affects almost all the joints of the body. The knees are some of the most commonly affected joints, with many people experiencing at least a small degree of osteoarthritis over the age of 40. The disease is characterized by degradation of the cartilage that lines the surfaces of the joint, growth of osteophytes or bony spurs, pain, stiffness and swelling.

What are the symptoms?

Stiffness in the morning that lasts less than 20 minutes and pain with movement, clicking, crepitus, swelling and a generalized reduction in joint range of motion are all common symptoms of osteoarthritis. As OA is a progressive disease, the condition is categorized into stages to help describe symptoms and guide treatment. Early stages of OA may have only mild symptoms, however as the disease progresses, a joint replacement may be required.

What causes it?

While aging is the most significant risk factor for the development of OA, it’s not an inevitable outcome of growing older. Other factors that may predict the development of OA are obesity, family history, previous joint injury, high impact sporting activities and peripheral neuropathy. It is thought that abnormal wear and tear or stress on the joint is the primary cause of OA. It is also important to note that many people will have changes on X-Ray that show OA, however, will have no symptoms – which indicates that simply having OA is not a sentence for having pain.

What is the treatment?

Your physiotherapist is first able to help diagnosis and differentiate OA from other conditions that may have similar symptoms. An X-Ray can confirm the diagnosis and can be helpful in determining the best course of treatment to follow.

While OA is a progressive disorder, there is often a significant improvement that can be made simply by addressing lifestyle factors and any biomechanical factors that may be contributing to pain.

How can physio help?

Your physiotherapist is able to guide you with strengthening exercises to support the joint, advice for adapting your exercise routine and can even help you to lose weight, all of which have been shown to have a positive impact on the symptoms of OA.

If surgery is the right course for you, your physiotherapist is able to guide you through this treatment pathway, helping you to prepare and recover from surgery to get the best outcome possible.

None of the information in this article is a replacement for proper medical advice. Always see a medical professional for advice on your individual injury.

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Prevent falls, promote health

Prevent falls, promote health

Falls cause 2/3rds of deaths due to unintentional injury in the elderly, which is the 5th leading cause of death of people over 65 years of age.

A fall by an elderly person can be defined as “a situation in which the older adult falls to the ground or is found lying on the ground” or “any unintended contact with a supporting surface, such as a chair, counter or wall”. (Shumway-Cook & Woollacott 2017)

We have your health in mind, and the prevention of such an adverse event, in our best interest and priority. We have decided to write a blog post to provide you with information to help minimise your risk of falling and increase your chances to lead a fit and healthy aging process.

The following list presents risk factors that are relevant to individual factors that increase the chance of falling:

Muscle weakness
History of falling
Walk with a limp
Poor balance (feel wobbly when walking)
Use of a walking aid (e.g. walking stick or frame)
Poor vision
Arthritis
Depression
Poor cognition (e.g. memory/ ability to problem solve)
Age greater than 80 years old

Are any of the symptoms listed above relevant to you?

It is difficult to attribute ageing as the sole reason for the development of the traits listed above, as older adults of the same age can demonstrate physical function ranging from physically elite to entirely dependent on others for all activities of daily living. However, there are some common trends of declining function to do with the neuromuscular system which occur in older adults, and although age may not be the main cause for these changes in the systems of postural control, it is likely, increasing age has a detrimental effect.

The aspects of the systems of postural control potentially detrimentally affected by age include:

Muscle strength
Range of motion
Static balance (ability to remain stable when you are not moving)
Dynamic balance (ability to remain stable with movement)
Reactive balance control (ability to sequence movement, time muscle activation and adapt to changing tasks and environmental demands
Anticipatory balance control (the ability to stabilise the body before performing a movement)
Sensation (the ability to detect change in the external environment through vision, hearing, touch, ability to sense vibration, and proprioception, or the ability to sense where your body is in space)

It is also necessary to comment on the loss of bone density associated with increased age (>50 years old). A loss of bone density increases your risk of fracture when falling and is something everyone can and should actively work to minimise.

Our Physiotherapists are pleased to guide you and minimise your risk of falling. Therefore, we have developed a very simple home exercise program for all readers, using equipment all should have access to, to enable you to take action to reduce your risk of developing risk factors of falling and consequently your overall risk of falling, immediately!!:

Sit to stand (to increase muscle strength)

Sitting upright in a chair
Lean forward with hands on chair
Push through arms and heels keeping back straight
Squeeze your buttocks to stand as tall as possible
Repeat 15 squats
Perform 3 x daily

Thoracic extension (to increase range of motion)

Sitting on a chair which has a high back
Place a rolled towel horizontally behind your shoulder blades
Place both hands behind your neck and interlock your fingers
Touch elbows together
Bend backward to a comfortable position and hold for 30seconds
Perform 3 x daily

SLS (to increase static postural control)

Standing next to a stable object
Place one hand on the stable object
Lift one leg off of the floor to form a L-shape
If you are confident and safe, take your hand off of the chair
Hold for 30 seconds
Repeat on the opposite leg
Perform 3 x daily

SLS – Eyes closed (to enhance sensation especially proprioception)
As above, however once stable, close your eyes and hold for 30 seconds

Tandem stance (to increase static postural control)

Standing next to a stable object
Place one hand on the stable object
Place one foot directly in front of the other, so that your toes of the back foot are touching the heel of the front foot, forming in a straight line
If you are confident and safe, take your hand off of the chair
Hold for 30 seconds
Repeat with the opposite leg in front
Perform 3 x daily

Tandem walking (to increase dynamic postural control)

Continue to get into the position as above, however, continue walking – like you are walking on a tightrope! (We recommend alongside the kitchen bench for safety precautions)
30 minutes of walking daily (to increase bone density, dynamic postural control anticipatory balance and importantly cardiovascular fitness – or heart and lung health!!)
This program is very basic and does not cover all of the aspects of postural control. Please make an appointment with one of our physiotherapists to extend your exercise program, so that we can make it more tailored to your needs and more interesting. We will use modern, exciting equipment and more fun movements!!

Finally, the following listed items are external factors that also increase one’s likelihood of falling. They are known as secondary factors and are easily controlled:

Stairs
Throw rugs
Slippery surfaces
Poor lighting
Clutter in the home
Uneven pavement

Please take a moment to consider how you can minimise your risk of falling through controlling these listed items, for example placing non-slip mats in the shower, reducing clutter in frequently used walkways, having a bedside lamp to use when going to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

We hope you have found this blog helpful and please do call us for any questions or comments.

Reference:
Chapter 9 Shumway-Cook, A & Woollacott MH 2017, ‘Aging and Postural Control’, in M Nobel (ed.)Motor Control: Translating Research into Clinical Practice, 5th edition, Wolters Kluwer, Philadelphia, pp. 206- 228.

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Running and Osteoarthritis

Running and Osteoarthritis

Does running accelerate the development of osteoarthritis?

There are so many misconceptions about running and how bad it can be for your joints. You may have heard many friends and family members comment on this and they may have even tried to convince you to stop running and go swimming instead. Here is what the scientific research tells us so far:

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a musculoskeletal condition that involves degeneration of the joints and impact during weightbearing exercise such as running and may contribute to joint loads. There is very little evidence however, that running causes OA in the knees or hips. One study reported in 1985 by Sohn and Micheli compared incidence of hip and knee pain and surgery over 25 years in 504 former cross-country runners. Only 0.8% of the runners needed surgery for OA in this time and the researchers concluded that moderate running (25.4 miles/week on average) was not associated with increased incidence of OA.

In another smaller study of 35 older runners and 38 controls with a mean age of 63 years, researchers looked at progression of OA over 5 years in the hands, lumbar spine and knees (Lane et al. 1993) . They used questionnaires and x-rays as measurement tools. In a span of 5 years, both groups had some participants who developed OA- but found that running did not increase the rate of OA in the knees. They reported that the 12% risk of developing knee OA in their group could be attributed to aging and not to running. In 2008, a group of researchers reported results from a longitudinal study in which 45 long distance runners and 53 non-runners were followed for 21 years. Assessment of their knee X-Rays, revealed that runners did not have a higher risk of developing OA than the non-running control group. They did note however, that the subjects with worse OA on x-ray also had higher BMI (Body Mass Index) and some early arthritic change in their knees at the outset of the study.

Is it better to walk than to run?

It is a common belief that it must be better to walk than to run to protect your joints. In a recent study comparing the effects of running and walking on the development of OA and hip replacement risk, the incidence of hip OA was 2.6% in the running group, compared with 4.7% in the walking group (Williams et al 2013). The percentage of walkers who eventually required a hip replacement was 0.7%, while in the running group, it was lower at 0.3%. Although the incidence is small, the authors suggest the chance of runners developing OA of the hip is less than walkers.
In the same study, Williams and colleagues reinforced that running actually helped keep middle-age weight gain down. As excess weight may correlate with increased risk of developing OA, running may reduce the risks of OA. The relationship between bodyweight and knee OA has been well-established in scientific studies, so running for fitness and keeping your weight under control is much less likely to wear out your knees than being inactive and carrying excess weight.

Is there a limit?

Recent studies have shown that we should be doing 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily to prevent cardiovascular disease and diabetes. But with running, researchers still have not established the exact dosage of runners that has optimal health effects. Hansen and colleagues’ review of the evidence to date reported that the current literature is inconclusive about the possible relationship about running volume and development of OA but suggested that physiotherapists can help runners by correcting gait abnormalities, treating injuries appropriately and encouraging them to keep the BMI down.

We still do not know how much is “too much” for our joints. However, we do know that with age, we expect degenerative changes to occur in the joints whether we run or not. Osteoarthritis is just as common as getting grey hair. The important thing is that we keep the joints as happy and healthy as possible.

How do you start running?

If you are not a runner and would like to start running, walking would be a good way to start and then work your way up to short running intervals and then longer intervals as you improve your fitness and allow time for your body to adapt. Therefore, running in general is not bad for the joints. It does not seem to increase our risk of developing OA in the hips and knees. But the way you run, the way you train and how fast you change your running frequency and distance may play a role in future injuries of the joints.

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Why does exercise make us feel happy?

Why does exercise make us feel happy?

So we all know that feeling that we get after exercise – we feel generally happier, less stressed, less anxious and also sleep better. Exercise produces a rush of happy hormones we also know as endorphins. So what are these endorphins and why do they make us feel happy?

Endorphins are chemicals that are produced in our brains in response to stress or pain. Running, doing a hard workout, playing a sport or any exercise at all that increases our bodies stress response has the ability to make our brains release endorphins. The endorphins have the ability to travel through our neural networks as a neurotransmitter. One thing we do know about endorphins is that they make us feel really good. So how does this work then?

A part of the brain called the hypothalamus sends a signal to increase endorphin uptake through our bodies neural network when we subject ourselves to certain activities like exercise, sex, eat certain foods or experience pain. The endorphins then attach themselves to specific receptor sites within our neural network – these are called opioid receptors. These special receptors have the ability to block out pain signals and also to increase that euphoric happy feeling we get after we exercise. It is the same receptors that are locked onto when we take pain relief in the form of opiates.

Once we achieve a positive result in something we do, either though through exercise or simple activities like sticking to a plan you’ve made, your brain will also release another happy hormone called dopamine. Dopamine is responsible for us feeling addicted to pleasure seeking behaviors. By setting regular and achievable exercise goals that you reach it is highly possible to make exercise the trigger for your brain to release dopamine.

Serotonin is another one of our brains happy hormones that act as a natural anti-depressant. When we exercise serotonin levels in our brain increase and so does your level of happiness.

I know all these terms may seem confusing but there is another very important happy hormone called oxytocin. Oxytocin is released when we feel loved, cared for and connected to others. Your brain will also release oxytocin when you are kind to others.

So no matter how hard it may seem to get yourself moving on some days, putting one foot in front of the other and pushing yourself to move and exercise is not only good for your muscles and joints but also stimulates your brain. You’ll produce your very own happy hormones, reduces your stress levels and have you wanting to repeat it all over again next time. Give your fellow team mates, friends and family an encouraging kind words regularly as well- it will not only help them feel happy but will increase your happiness as well.

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