Osteoarthritis is one of the most common health conditions that affects seniors. It is commonly confused with osteoporosis, however the 2 conditions are vastly different. One thing that they do have in common however is that they can both be managed through appropriate exercise.
What is osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a condition that affects the cartilage which lines the ends of bones and functions to reduce friction as the bones glide against one another. As cartilage degenerates, normal movement in the joint can be altered over time and this can lead to focal stress and poor force distribution. Unfortunately cartilage has a relatively poor blood supply and relies on the fluid inside the joint to provide the nutrients it needs to stay healthy. Without movement, the fluid inside the joint capsules doesn’t reach all parts of the cartilage and this can accelerate the process of degeneration.
What causes it?
The most common causes of osteoarthritis are previous injuries to the area, and movement related errors. When it comes to movement errors, they can result from a lack of movement or from inappropriate movement. Inappropriate movement involves excessive and repetitive loading, or improper movement patterns causing unequal loading on the cartilage.
How can exercise help?
Exercise is the best way to move the joints and hence allow for the fluid to supply all of the cartilage within the joint capsule. Exercise is also important to strengthen the muscles that help to support the joints and unload the cartilage.
While exercise is a vital component in the management of osteoarthritis, it is vital that exercise is performed in the correct way, including correct exercises, correct technique and correct intensity. For this reason it is important to consult a health professional such as an exercise physiologist to determine an appropriate exercise program to assist in the management of the condition. This should involve both strengthening exercises and movement corrective exercises in addition to cardiovascular, balance and mobility based activities.