Winter is coming. Its not too long before the weather starts to turn and we begin to wonder why all of our sudden our joints start to hurt and we aren’t sure why.
For most of you, the last few winters (and even the last few warmer months) have plagued you with the inability to complete every day household tasks or you’ve had to stop completing recreational activities that you previously were able to enjoy without pain or discomfort.
Something I see very commonly as an Accredited Exercise Physiologist is Osteoarthritis and the affects it can have on the quality of life of people.
Here is a nonsense easy to read guide on what Osteoarthritis is, why do our bones crack, why do we get pain and how to manage osteoarthritis pain.
So What is Osteoarthritis ?
Is the most common form of arthritis which affects the joints in the hands, knees, hips, and spine
- Is known as a degenerative condition of the cartilage of joints (the tissue that lines the end of your bones)
This wearing down of the cartilage that cushions your bones occurs due to a variety of reasons such as:
- Ageing (this is normal)
- Carrying extra bodyweight can place extra strain on joints leading to them degenerating faster than usual.
- Previous Joint injury or surgery. Although any surgery can help with your immediate problem, long term (pending on the operation) places you at risk of joint deteriorating faster than the usual ageing process.
- Metabolic conditions such as diabetes can lead to joint deteriorating quicker than the normal ageing process.
- Genetics- may inherit risk of it developing joint deteriorating conditions that lead to a earlier decline in cartilage in joints.
Common symptoms to look out if you have or are experiencing joint pain are:
- Pain, will feel like a constant dull ache but also may hurt if excessively bending or twisting the joint rapidly as well.
- Stiffness, this occurs more in the morning. Once the joint warms up this usually goes away.
- Loss of Flexibility, you might notice you might not be able to bend down or reach behind and scrub your back like you previously have been able to.
- Swelling around your joints or in muscles around the joint.
So why do bones crack?
Bones usually crack due to air inside the joint escaping. This is due to the fluid that lines your joints releasing air when you move leading that “popping” and “cracking” noise you hear. This is normal!!!!
However, this is not normal when you experience pain in the joint during the movement or can hear a audible grating/grinding noise. This is a sign you may have OSTEOARTHRITIS.
Osteoarthritis is not to be feared, With the right exercises we can safely keep you strong and moving.
So why do I get pain?
- Pain occurs when our cartilage wears down in our joints, our bones can rub against each other causing pain and discomfort as the bones are usually protected by a layer of tissue called cartilage
- Due to the cartilage wearing down, cold mornings can be difficult and most painful as joints will feel stiff and sore. The change in temperature and weather can sometimes lead to an increase in pain in the joints
- As our cartilage wears down the body tries to “repair” or “fix” the loss of cartilage by creating little bits of bone to help stabilize the joint. These are call Bone Spurs. These can develop around the joint and be quite sharp and painful as they can irritate your ligaments, tendons and muscles leading to inflammation.
- Inflammation can also cause pain as the body is trying to “repair” the cartilage in your joint, as well as due to bone-on-bone contact. This can lead to swelling around the joint or and increase in stiffness
How do I minimize my pain?
- Everyone is different. Everyone has varying methods on that helps reduce their pain.
- You need to find a method that works for you and your circumstances. We can provide some guidance and options but ultimately what works for you is the best treatment option.
Options to try to minimize pain
- Exercise- this will help strengthen the muscles around the joint to support it better
- Hydrotherapy or water-based activity to improve strength and flexibility of joints
- Use heat packs on joints to warm them up
- Use ice packs on area if inflamed
- Walking- a gentle movement to get the joints moving and warm
- See your doctor for Anti-Inflammatory medication or pain relief (Last option if all other methods fail to help reduce pain)
- Consider Supplements such as Glucosamine, Chondroitin, Tumeric to help with joint maintenance and inflammation (Speak to your Doctor or Health care Professional first before using)