Osteoarthritis Treatment

St Leonards Physiotherapy proudly offer quality care for Osteoarthritis to local St Leonards, Cammeray, Crows Nest, North Sydney, Lane Cove & North Shore residents.

If you’re suffering from Osteoarthritis, you may be suffering from on-going pain or have occasional flare-ups. Being a degenerative disease, it can’t be cured but can be managed through maintenance physiotherapy and exercise program.

St Leonards Physiotherapy provides a comprehensive management program for patients with osteoarthritis. Our program give you the best chance of delaying or avoiding joint replacement surgery. Our program has the following elements:

Physiotherapy specific for Osteoarthritis

Treatment begins with a detailed musculoskeletal assessment. We take some measurements of weight (such as BMI and waist circumference) and exercise capacity (using devices such as steps, stationary bike or treadmill). We look carefully at muscle length and strength issues for your whole body, not just your arthritic joint. We look for biomechanical issues that may be contributing to your pain. For example, weakness of core and buttock muscles may be contributing to excessive loading of your hip and knee joints.

The aim of this process is to get a baseline recording of your current problems. This allows us to plan a treatment program that suits you best.

Knee braces or other support for the affected joint

Braces can help to reduce pain and reduce the load on the affected joint. In the case of knee pain, we recommend the Ossur Unloader One and Unloader Fit braces. They are dynamic, uni-compartmental unloading braces, which means that they help to reduce the pressure on one side of the knee and transfer it to the other side of the knee. This works well when you have a problem primarily on one side of the knee.

Our physiotherapists have spent a lot of time and training with Ossur to become authorised fitters of these specialised braces. The braces are not suitable for all patients; therefore, we need a careful assessment to ensure that they are appropriate for you. The braces are not a standalone solution, and work well in conjunction with an exercise and weight loss program.

Tailored exercise programs

Exercise is the key for effective management of arthritis. However, it is important that you get the intensity and type of exercise right for your situation. One of the big problems is people with osteo-arthritis often know that they need to lose weight, but whenever they try and exercise, they end up aggravating their sore hip or knee. This cycle often ends up in frustration and despair.

At St Leonards Physiotherapy, we run a number specialised exercise programs for patients with osteo-arthritis.  These have a maximum of 4 people per class, and they run for 1 hour per week for 9 consecutive weeks. The exercises are a combination of stretching and strengthening exercises with a strong focus on Pilates. We group people of similar age, problems and exercise level.

We also North’s Fitness, which is located within North Sydney League’s Club at Cammeray. Having our physiotherapist’s in the gym has allowed us to improve our osteo-arthritis program. St Leonards Physiotherapy at North’s allows us to co-ordinate your management with the gym’s existing weight loss exercise programs. Some of North’s programs include aqua-aerobics, stationary bike classes and personal training.

What do you know about osteoarthritis (OA)?

Currently one in seven Australians have osteoarthritis, and it’s estimated that it will become one in five, by 2050. Osteoarthritis is basically the ‘wearing out’ of the cartilage surfaces of synovial joints, and the reasons are usually about 50% genetic and 50% environmental. In short, it’s all about load verses strength – usually OA occurs when there is too much weight and not enough strength to support the knee/hip joint.

There are many ‘traditional’ treatments, which unfortunately are largely ineffective – these are things like arthroscopy, injections, stem cell, Panadol and anti-inflammatories. All the current research is showing that exercise, weight loss and education are the best treatment for OA. The solution is for people to lose enough weight and build up enough muscle strength to support their knee/hip joint. For example, if a person can leg press their body weight, it’s likely that they can support themselves walking up stairs or squatting without pain.

And when it comes to getting information about your condition, scans – like X-rays and MRIs – provide only limited information. Physical testing (such as Body Mass Index (BMI), six-minute walk test, questionnaires, 80% heart rate max on stationary bike, strength testing in the gym) provide more useful information.

And that is why we started our OA program at Norths Fitness. It takes time to build an effective exercise program that people can continue independently. This is so we can ensure you have a program bespoke to your needs and a professional to guide you through it.

And leaving you on an important fact, if you did eventually need to get a knee or hip replacement, do you know the best age to do so? It’s 70! This means the replacement will probably last you the rest of your life. So if you are 55-60 years old, you need a 10-15 year plan to keep your symptoms under control. This will save you, the health system, and private insurance loads of money – it means one joint replacement in your life instead of two (or revision of your original). Knowing all of this, it’s also important to know that only 80% of knee replacements are successful. That means four in every five people are happy. One in five are either no better, or worse. So, our message to you is: Don’t have surgery until you have exhausted all other options. Surgery is a pain-relieving operation, not an operation that will allow you to improve your lifestyle. It only takes about a 10% loss of body weight to make a 50% improvement in your knee pain, so try a non-invasive exercise and strengthening program first.

So, if you’d like to learn more about managing your osteoarthritis, please reach out – we’re happy to help!

Call (02) 9438 1782 to book an appointment or