“I have arthritis” is a common saying in the clinic. The word ‘arthritis’ has become a general term that people use for joint pain, and is often surrounded by negative beliefs such that the world is going to crumble upon you. In fact, no – it is not the end of the world if you manage it properly.


Arthritis is a common term used to describe joint inflammation. Out of the people who have arthritis, 55.9% had osteoarthritis (OA) (ABS, 2013). OA may come with age and often affects the hips, knees and hands (Acheson et al., 2016). Besides the factor of ageing, your sports activities, muscle weakness and previous injury may also predispose you to developing OA (Kalunian et al., 2014).

Cartilage is the rubbery material between the end of two bones in a joint, and in OA, the cartilage begins to break down (Acheson et al., 2016; Fransen et al., 2014). The bones in the joint then start to rub against each other, causing pain. Moreover, the body tries to repair itself by inducing more bone growth, but instead of making it better, abnormal growth can become misshapen and make the joint unstable and more painful (Fransen et al., 2014).

What are the symptoms of OA?

Symptoms of OA may include:

  • Deep, aching pain
  • Stiff joint
  • Swelling
  • ‘Creaking’ sounds or crepitus
  • Movement limitation (Fransen et , 2015; Loew et al., 2012)

How does physiotherapy improve my health when I have OA?

It is important to remember that although there has not been any cure for OA, physiotherapy is shown to be effective in reducing the intensity and frequency of the occasional flare-­‐ups of OA pain. By doing therapeutic exercises, you can gain more control over your pain through strengthening muscles and improving your fitness.

  1. Strengthening – This is especially relevant as people with OA are associated with a marked reduction in strength of the lower leg (Fransen et , 2014; Fransen et al., 2015). Strengthening the muscles is crucial because strong muscles can protect your joints, reduce load on joints and ultimately lead to decreased pain and improved physical function (Acheson et al., 2016; Fernandes et al., 2013; Fransen et al., 2014; Fransen et al., 2015).
  1. Cardiorespiratory fitness – Poor physical fitness is commonly reported in people with Improving your breathing and heart rate by doing low-­‐ impact aerobic exercises, such as walking, cycling and swimming, can make you feel less fatigued and able to do your daily tasks with less effort (Fernandes et al., 2013; Fransen et al., 2015). Research also shows that low-­‐ impact aerobic activities stimulate chemicals in the brain that help in reducing joint pain without putting your joints in too much load (Loew et al., 2012).

When doing your exercises, it is important to listen to your body and change or stop doing the activities that cause you pain.

Surgery (a knee or hip replacement) may be an option for some people when they have found that other treatments do not help enough. However, most people manage to find strategies to go back to doing the activities they like to do by combining exercises, medicines and other devices (Acheson et al., 2016).

For more information or a full assessment, please contact the nearest PhysioHealth clinic to commence a rehabilitation program tailored to you.


Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). (2013). Arthritis and osteoporosis. Retrieved from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4338.0main+features272011-1

Acheson, D. W. K., Albrecht, M. A., Alexander, M., … & Zieman, M. (2016). Osteoarthritis. Retrieved from http://www.uptodate.com/contents/osteoarthritis-the‐ basics?source=search_result&search=osteoarthritis&selectedTitle=1~150

Acheson, D. W. K., Albrecht, M. A., Alexander, M., … & Zieman, M. (2016). Arthritis and exercise. Retrieved from http://www.uptodate.com/contents/arthritis‐and-exercise‐the‐basics?source=search_result&search=arthritis&selectedTitle=4~150

Fernandes, L., Hagen, K. B., Bijlsma, J. W., Andreassen, O., Christensen, P., Conaghan, P. G., … & Lohmander, L. S. (2013). EULAR recommendations for the non-pharmacological core management of hip and knee osteoarthritis.Annals of the rheumatic diseases, 72(7), 1125-1135.

Fransen, M., McConnell, S., Hernandez‐Molina, G., & Reichenbach, S. (2014). Exercise for osteoarthritis of the hip. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 4.

Fransen, M., McConnell, S., Harmer, A. R., Van der Esch, M., Simic, M., & Bennell, K. L. (2015). Exercise for osteoarthritis of the knee: a Cochrane systematic review. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 49(24), 1554-1557.

Kalunian, K. C., Tugwell, P., & Curtis, M. R. (2014). Risk factors for and possible causes of osteoarthritis. Retrieved from http://www.uptodate.com/contents/risk-factors-for-and-possible-causes-of-osteoarthritis?source=see_link

Loew, L., Brosseau, L., Wells, G. A., Tugwell, P., Kenny, G. P., Reid, R., … & Coyle, D. (2012). Ottawa panel evidence‐based clinical practice guidelines for aerobic walking programs in the management of osteoarthritis. Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation, 93(7), 1269-1285.