How to Prevent Osteoarthritis: Lifestyle, Diet & Exercise

Response Physio | 09.02.23

How to Prevent Osteoarthritis
Lifestyle, Diet & Exercise

The most common and well-known type of arthritis is osteoarthritis. You may be familiar with the term ‘wear and tear’. ‘Osteo’ is a Latin word that translates into ‘bone’. Osteoarthritis is the breakdown of cartilage that covers the end of articulating bones. As the cartilage breaks down, the bone will begin to rub on the bone which creates an inflammatory response.

What are the symptoms associated with osteoarthritis?

There are several varying symptoms associated with osteoarthritis. On some occasions, people experience no pain at all and often don’t know they have osteoarthritis. The intensity/duration of symptoms is often linked to the severity of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is diagnosed as mild, moderate or severe. 

The common symptoms include:

  • Pain on or around the joint 
  • Swelling, redness and warmth in the joint – specifically looking at whether your joint swelling lasts more than 3 days 
  • Stiffness and reduced joint movement – is your stiffness worse in the morning? Does it ease with movement?
  • Joint tenderness 
  • A creaking or grating sound coming from the affected joint 
  • Loss of muscle around the joint and a feeling of weakness

What are the risk factors?

Developing osteoarthritis is a natural process of getting older. Risk factors that can increase your chances include:

  • Obesity – it increases the load through weight-bearing joints
  • Female – osteoarthritis of the hip is 2x more likely in females
  • Joint injury/damage – previous damage to the bone, cartilage or ligaments can increase the risk 
  • Hypermobile joints and reduced muscle strength – likely to cause abnormal loading through the joint 
  • Exercise stresses – are likely to increase the joint load and/or possible damage to the joints. More likely in ex-professional athletes
  • Occupational stresses – manual jobs with repetitive movements such as squatting, kneeling, bending and prolonged standing are more likely to contribute  

How is osteoarthritis diagnosed?

Osteoarthritis is likely to be diagnosed if:

  • You are aged over 45
  • The stiffness in the morning lasts up to 30 minutes
  • The stiffness and/or pain gets worse straight after increased exercise 
  • You have stiffness and/or pain in one or more of the commonly affected joints (hips, knees)

Often, complaining of the above symptoms and having a health professional examine your joint can be enough to diagnose osteoarthritis. Having an x-ray can help distinguish the severity of osteoarthritis, but is not always necessary. Blood tests are sometimes advised to rule out any other potential conditions. 

How can I treat my osteoarthritis?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for osteoarthritis. Despite this, there are a variety of different treatment options to help manage your symptoms.

Firstly, exercise. Exercise has been proven to be an effective form of treatment for osteoarthritis. This is because the stronger the muscles surrounding the joint, the less pain you are likely to experience. Exercise is helpful for weight loss, building stronger muscles, improving posture and relieving stress. For example, if you suffer from osteoarthritis of the knee, strengthening the quadricep, hamstring, glute and calf muscles is going to support the knee joint better, reducing pain. 

There are so many different ways that you can exercise, for example, walking, swimming, cycling, gardening, aqua aerobics and much more, giving you plenty of options to choose from. 

Another treatment option is seeing a physiotherapist. A physiotherapist will examine the affected joint and prescribe a treatment program suitable for you. The program is likely to include an exercise program which you can do at home to help strengthen the surrounding muscles. The physiotherapist may also suggest ice therapy. Ice therapy is used to help reduce the inflammatory response caused by osteoarthritis. It can also be used as a form of pain relief. Hands-on treatment is an option throughout sessions, this includes soft tissue, trigger pointing and acupuncture. 

Finally, medication. Osteoarthritis is often treated with pain-reducing medications. Booking an appointment with your GP is advised to control pain. 

If any of the above information correlates with your current symptoms, it is advised you book an appointment with a professional physiotherapist to help assess and treat your painful joint. 

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