Get Physical: Coming to grips with osteoarthritis


By Josh Vance

While arthritis grips many of us in the course of our life, there remains a lot of mystery around it. Understanding the underlying cause gives you the ability to battle it wisely and reduce the degree that it limits your enjoyment of life.

The first thing to understand is that there are two different types of arthritis: Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis. I will be writing a series of articles on this topic. In this article, I will talk about osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis is a result of the wear and tear of the joints. This could be brought on suddenly by a trauma from an accident. It often comes on slowly as a result of long standing wear. Occupations that involve repetitive motions can cause arthritis over the years as the joints are slowly worn down.

There is also a genetic component with osteoarthritis. That means that if your parents or grandparents have suffered with osteoarthritis, the odds are that you will face some arthritis in your lifetime as well. Don’t let that discourage you though. There are things you can begin doing now to reduce the effects of arthritis in the future.

When you have wear and tear to the joints, the joints surfaces become eroded and pitted. They are no longer smooth and shiny as they originally were which means that the joint surfaces can no longer move in a nice smooth way. Instead, they become stiff, painful and tight.

The natural reaction to pain is to avoid movement. With arthritis, this backfires as the muscles around the joints become weak from disuse. The joint capsule itself often becomes tight because of the lack of motion as well. Continuing to move in an appropriate way is key to maintaining control of osteoarthritis.

If you are wondering if the pain you have been experiencing in your joints is a result of osteoarthritis, there are a few things to look for. Osteoarthritis is often associated with pain while bearing weight. For example, a person with osteoarthritis in their knees would find that they experience a significant increase in pain when standing verses sitting.

Stiffness is also very common with osteoarthritis. This is particularly noticeable after being in a static position for a prolonged period of time. For example, there may be a significant increase in stiffness and pain after sitting for a long time in a car or movie theater. Inflammation is also likely companion to osteoarthritis.

There is no cure for arthritis because it involves the destruction of the joints over the long term. However, you can control the progression of the symptoms through proper treatment involving strength and flexibility training, reducing body weight and the use of ice and heat to control pain and inflammation.

If you think you may be experiencing some of the symptoms of osteoarthritis already, a doctor can give you a formal diagnosis and a physical therapist can help you manage the pain and reduce the negative effects of arthritis.

Small changes in lifestyle and habits can have a big effect on your ability to overcome the effects of arthritis in the future. The sooner you start the better!

Josh Vance is a licensed physical therapist and owner of Vance Physical Therapy and Wellness, 511 W. Visalia Rd. in Exeter. For questions, call him at 559-592-7117.

This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.

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