As a chiropractor, one of the comments I often hear from patients who are coming in for treatment of their various aches and pains is “What ever you do, don’t get old!” My standard response, and one you would expect from someone who is both young and naive to the trappings of old age, is “Well, it’s gotta be better than the alternative?” Apparently not everyone is convinced with my advice…..
We recently attended an osteoarthritis information night presented by some local Geelong Medical doctors. It was aimed at Chiropractors, Physiotherapists, Osteopaths, Exercise physiologists and other local GP’s, primarily because we are the ones who see people with joint aches and pain fairly regularly.
What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is typically a ‘wear and tear’ arthritis. Naturally the older you are, the more likely it is that your joint will have undergone some wear and tear so consequently, osteoarthritis is thought of as a problem for older people. It can be a painful condition, which causes stiffness, often in the morning and generally ‘warms up’ throughout the day. If the condition is painful enough, it can limit our daily activities and prevent us from exercising. This inactivity causes a weakening of the surrounding muscles and tissues making the problem more difficult to manage.
Are there some simple things that we can be doing to help relieve the pain and stiffness of arthritis?
It turns out the answer is yes. Non-invasive, conservative management is often the first line and last line in the management of arthritis. Research suggests that the two most effective means of decreasing the pain and disability associated with osteoarthritis are:
- Maintaining a healthy weight and
- Get a targeted exercise and mobility program for the particular area involved.
The exercises that the Chiropractors at Latrobe Health Centre prescribe will depend on the degree of wear and tear in your joints, the level of pain that you are in and how much and what type of exercise you are currently doing. Where appropriate, some ‘hands on’ techniques like gentle mobilisations and manipulations as well as stretching of the affected joints can also help improve movement and decrease pain.
Is there a role for medications and joint injections?
It appears so. Thankfully, in many cases discomfort can often be relieved by simple analgesics and anti-inflammatories. In some cases, particularly when the joint is really worn out and painful, injections into the joint can be an option. There are a number of different types of compounds that can be injected, some requiring only one injection, others a series of injections. And of course, these things can have side-effects, so it’s best to talk with your doctor about which one might best suit you.
The local GP’s were at pains to say (pardon the pun), that injections and medication were to be used ‘in conjunction with’ rather than ‘instead of’ exercise programs and weight management. So using medication sparingly, as a means of decreasing pain so that you can perform some light exercise, is OK. Using medication and relying on injections as the only means of managing your painful, arthritic joints is probably not the best way to go.