Osteoarthritis and Physical activity

This article will cover Osteoarthritis (OA). Most people don’t know what this is until they reach their older years. Some people may have a family member with OA. It’s very common and prevents individuals from exercising. We will cover the disease itself and some basic strategies to reduce the negative impacts from it.

Osteoarthritis is the most common joint disease that causes the loss of articular cartilage between bones. Although it is possible to be diagnosed with OA for young individuals, the prevalence of OA mainly lies on older populations. Among Canadians with OA of any joints, 16 percent of those are between ages 20 and 49, compared to 45 percent of those being 65 or older, this is shown in Government Canada statistics. Since there is no cure for OA, many people think that there is nothing they can do and there is a common misconception that exercise does not help but instead harmful to people with OA. 

Towards the end of this article we will talk about how exercise can help alleviate symptoms of OA in depth today.

But first, how does Osteoarthritis develop?

Osteoarthritis is mainly developed through mechanical stress on joints but there are other risk factors that could cause OA:

  1. Age—The risk of developing OA increases with age due to natural loss of cartilage.
  2. Obesity—Extra weight puts more stress on joints, particularly weight-bearing joints like the hips and knees. This stress increases the risk of OA in that joint. Obesity may also have metabolic effects that increase the risk of OA.
  3. Genetics—People who have family members with OA are more likely to develop OA. People who have hand OA are more likely to develop knee OA.
  4. Race— Some Asian populations have lower risk for OA
  5. History of joint injuries – compromised joints due to injury can lead to OA down the road

Many people perceive exercise as harmful in relation to OA. That is not true. There is no risk associated with light-moderate exercise intensity whereas intense, high intensity exercise might contribute in wear-tearing of articular cartilage. With that said, it is fair to say that unless you are exercising at an intensity where your heart feels like it is about to explode, exercise is mostly right for you. Less intensive exercise such as walking, jogging, stair-climbing and casual sport activity is safe. It all falls back into how ‘impactful’ the exercise is on your joints. If your exercise puts heavy weight or loads on your joints, the chance of this exercise being suitable is very low as it will put high pressure on the joints. You can usually tell from the get-go or how it feels. Of course, the idea is to reduce the possibility of further damage and pain.

Many low impact exercises are safe for patients with OA, there are specific joint strengthening exercises that can be helpful. Lifting weights through resistance training is essential. There’s a lot of options out there. Most individuals prefer to do water based training which is minimal impact or virtually no impact. Unfortunately, not everyone has access to a pool. It has been shown that yoga, tai chi, and any slow movements have helped with OA.

I can’t highlight any particular exercises for a certain joint here as each individual’s situation is unique. But it is critical to receive a proper assessment first.

We’ve had the opportunity to work with many individuals with OA, so definitely book a call with us.

Article by: Shaneh-Abbas (R. Kin) and Jacob (4th Year UofT Kinesiology Student)

Published by Shaneh-Abbas @ Myofiber

Registered Kinesiologist Personal Trainer Over 10 years of training experience in a variety of settings. Online trainer since 2017

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