Arthritis is a degenerative joint disease which is the leading cause of pain and disability in the elderly. It currently affects around 3.85 million Australians which accounts for about 15% of the population. The most common joints affected include the hips, knees, fingers, toes, ankles, spine and wrists, but can be present in any joint within the body. The most common form of arthritis in Australia is Osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis is characterised by the breakdown of cartilage within a joint that degenerates over time causing localised pain, aching, and inflammation limiting functional joint mobility. It usually develops later in life as the onset of this condition progresses gradually over years from wear and tear. This break down and erosion of the cartilage within the joint progresses until the joint space is decreased causing an articulation between the bones and prominent surfaces on either side of the joint.

Risk Factors

There is no known direct cause for arthritis, but the main risks associated with developing arthritis include being overweight or obese, and having previous joint related injuries. While many people consider wear and tear a part of aging, conditions such as osteoarthritis can be prevented through early detection and effective management strategies. The main goal for physical activity programs is to reduce pain, improve physical function and optimise quality of life by increasing the capacity to perform active daily activities.

Exercise and Management Strategies

There are certain pharmaceutical treatments, such as anti-inflammatory drugs and pain killers, to help to reduce the symptoms associated with osteoarthritis, although management strategies through exercise have also shown to be effective in managing the condition, especially with keeping active and not becoming immobile.

Exercise management would aim to decrease the load placed on joints. This can include weight loss strategies and to modify exercises to improve muscular strength and functional movement. Resistance training activities such as strengthening the quads are beneficial to improve muscular strength around the knee joint in order to assist with absorbing impact pressure placed on the joint.

Flexibility exercises help to increase the range of motion around the joint and reduce the friction placed on the articulating bones. Aerobic activities that can help reduce impact on lower limb joints include walking, cycling, cross trainers, arc trainers or steppers – these are commonly recommended according to whichever is most comfortable for the individual.

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