Patients often feel scared when a medical practitioner mentions that they might have osteoarthritis, and fear that this is the first step towards being crippled. The truth however is that in most cases, people simply feel an occasional mild discomfort in the affected joint.
Arthritis generally refers to pain and restriction of movement in a joint. Osteoarthritis typically affects individual large, weight-bearing joints of the body such as the knees, hips, ankles, wrist and spine. However, it can occur in any joint in the body, including the shoulder, fingers and toes.
The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is usually caused by degenerative wear-and-tear to the cartilage on the ends of bones in a joint, possibly as a result of injury, poor blood flow or deformity. Symptoms include pain and stiffness which can come and go in episodes, possibly related to your activity level or even the weather.
Having a good posture along with regular low-impact exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and reducing the stress on joints can help reduce the likelihood of developing or worsening osteoarthritis. Typically, osteoarthritis worsens at a very slow rate over a number of years, however many cases do not reach the stage that they need treatment.
Left: normal joint. Right: Reduced joint space as seen on an x-ray, typical for osteoarthritis.
Osteopathic treatment for osteoarthritis varies depending upon the location of the arthritis within the body. However, it generally involves gentle mobilisation of the affected joint and surrounding joints, gentle stretching exercise and stretching exercises for nearby muscles.
The severity of osteoarthritis determines the effectiveness of osteopathic treatment. It is possible for all of the cartilage within a joint to become worn away, in which case not much can be done for that joint. Treatment would instead be more focused with mobilising surrounding joints. Severe cases of osteoarthritis may require surgery.