Don’t want to continuously take drugs for your osteoarthritis? – What are your other options.

When you are first diagnosed with hip or knee osteoarthritis (OA), most commonly you are told to take pain relief and or anti-inflammatory medication. But what else can you do if the thought of long term medication use is not for you.

Structured land based exercise, combined with weight loss where required is the first recommendations in the Royal Australia Collage of General Practitioners guidelines for non-pharmalogical treatments for hip and knee osteoarthritis.

There is now a mountain of evidence that land based exercise is beneficial in reducing pain and improving physical function for those with hip and knee OA. When combined with weight loss, these benefits are magnified again. So how does this all work.

The pain associated with OA inhibits the muscles contractions around the affected joint. Also, nobody likes pain, so we don’t use that limb as much, leading to disuse atrophy of the muscles. Now that those muscles are no longer strong, nor supporting the joint, increased load is transmitted into the joint itself, leading to more pain. The more pain, the less you do, and this viscous cycle continues. This is often associated with weight gain, limping and pain in other joints or the lower back.

A good exercise program aims to stop the downward spiral to restore muscle strength and function. What is most important is the exercise you perform doesn’t overload the joint leading to increased pain. With an experienced therapists like an Exercise Physiologist, and the correct prescription of exercise you can expect to see improvement in two stages. Over the first two weeks, you begin to recruit more of your muscles fibres, with more coordinated muscle contraction. These neuromuscular improvements give you an increase in strength. The next improvement occurs after 6 weeks of exercise, when you achieve muscle hypertrophy, or increase the in actual size of the muscle. The combination help to improve the muscle support to your joint which is the key to less pain and more function.

So for an effective exercise program you must ensure that the exercise is right for you, and doesn’t aggravate your pain, and that your exercise program lasts for at least 6 weeks to see the real benefit. If you need expert advice on exercise for your OA, contact our experienced team of Exercise Physiologist now.

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