How Orthopedic Specialists and Physical Therapists work with osteoarthritis

There are no specific cures for osteoarthritis in the sense that nothing can cure the disease itself. On the other hand, there are different types of treatment that can reduce the symptoms. In general terms, we divide these treatments for osteoarthritis into three stages: training, supplementary treatment with medication, and finally surgery. Everyone affected by osteoarthritis should therefore start treatment with rehabilitation training. If this does not work, supplementary treatment such as pain relieving medication or cortisone injections provide temporary relief to be able to start training. When nothing else is working and the symptoms are advanced, an operation should be considered. In order to find out the most appropriate type of osteoarthritis treatment, it is always beneficial to visit a physiotherapist and/or orthopedist.

Training as treatment for osteoarthritis

Anyone who suffers from osteoarthritis knows that it can be very painful. It is natural to avoid moving your body because it can easily increase the pain and simply doesn’t feel natural. But the truth is that training and movement are often the best way to alleviate osteoarthritis. Instructor-led and long-term training is the form of treatment that has been shown to be the most effective and is recommended by both doctors and the National Board of Health and Welfare in Sweden. Training can help strengthen the muscles around the affected joint to relieve the strain on the joint. That is why it is not unusual for patients suffering from osteoarthritis to be prescribed exercise. Surgery for osteoarthritis is the last stage.

Cortisone injection or surgery as treatment for osteoarthritis?

If you suffer from osteoarthritis of the knee and the pain is unbearable, cortisone injections can be used as pain relieving treatment. This relieves the pain temporarily and, in this way, can facilitate everyday life for someone who cannot bear the pain. But it is important to know that it is a short-term solution. In addition, there are studies showing that, in the long-term, cortisone may make the situation worse and break down the cartilage in the joint. For this reason, there are general guidelines to limit the number of cortisone injections. Therefore, training is always preferable.

A third type of treatment of osteoarthritis is surgery. If the patient has tried a training program without results, surgery could be a solution. So, it is not the first option. In fact, only 10-15 % of those suffering from osteoarthritis need surgery. There is even a risk that the osteoarthritis patient will be dissatisfied, because it is difficult to achieve a perfect result. Usually it is possible to remove the pain, but there may be stiffness and other complications as side effects of an osteoarthritis operation.

Training after surgery

Training is recommended as supplementary treatment, even if the patient has undergone surgery or been given a cortisone injection. This is because training is the treatment method that affects the actual condition and does not simply alleviate symptoms such as pain and stiffness. Without training, there is a risk that the joint stiffness will increase and the problems will become worse. So training will always be included as part of osteoarthritis treatment, regardless of whether it is in combination with cortisone or surgery.

Different types of training exercises to treat osteoarthritis

If you are looking for an individually designed training program, you can attend osteoarthritis classes. If you are not able to travel, there are a few common exercises to do at home. Getting up from a chair is one of them. The movement must be done correctly to ensure that the right muscles are being tensed. This will also load the joint in a balanced way. Get help from a physiotherapist or a personal trainer in order to learn the right technique.

Another training exercise is to take a step up onto a low stool, or a stable pile of books, and then step down again. This, as well as getting up from a chair, can be repeated a number of times depending on your own ability. Another training method can be carried out sitting on a chair. With one foot on the floor, stretch out the other leg so that it is straight and then back down again. Repeat this for the other leg. If you want more exercises you can download the Joint Academy app, which includes digital osteoarthritis classes.

Read more about paraffin treatment for hand- / finger osteoarthritis.