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Hip and Knee Osteoarthritis – Busting Myths

Osteoarthritis (OA) is one of the most common chronic diseases affecting more than 2 million Australians. It can cause considerable pain, affecting mobility, function, and quality of life. The condition costs our health care system $2.1 billion per year.

Two of the most commonly affected joints are the knee and hip. Symptoms may include pain when moving or weight-bearing, stiffness, swelling, joints giving way and/or crunching/clicking noises.

Common risk factors for developing OA are being overweight/obese, joint injury, overuse through occupation or sport, and muscle weakness/inactivity. In addition, your genetics plays a role in whether you will develop OA or not.

There are many myths associated with Osteoarthritis:

‘I’ve got Wear and Tear’
Many people refer to OA as ‘wear and tear’, but this is incorrect and can lead to the belief that using your arthritic joint will wear it out. In fact, cartilage needs moderate loading through physical activity to stay healthy and regenerate.

‘It’s just old age’
OA is more common with increasing age, but it is not just a disease that affects older people..

‘There’s nothing to be done’
Whilst there is no cure for OA, there are many treatment options that can control pain, improve joint function, and ultimately slow progression of the disease.
Recommended course of action for someone with hip and knee OA should involve 3 core treatments: education, exercise, and weight control.

  • Education – it is normal for people with OA to feel worried or scared. Getting the right advice and understanding your condition will increase your confidence and your ability to self-manage.
  • Exercise – is effective for pain relief in addition to improving muscle strength and joint function. Inactivity and rest make pain worse in the long-term. Based on the best available evidence, a minimum of 12 supervised sessions, delivered twice a week, is required to increase the chance of a successful outcome, for example the Good Life with Osteoarthritis (GLAD) Program.
  • Weight Control – Being overweight puts more load on your joints. In addition, increased body fat can lead to increased levels of inflammation in the body, which can affect the cartilage in the joints.

‘Pain when exercising means I am damaging my joint’
It is very safe to exercise with OA. It is normal to get some increase in pain when you start doing new exercises but pain does not equal damage.

‘I will eventually need a hip or knee replacement’
Only a small percentage of people with OA should end up needing a joint replacement. Most people can be effectively managed with the management strategies listed above, plus the addition of pain relieving modalities if required.
A joint replacement is a major Orthopaedic surgery, and should be reserved for people who have exhausted all other conservative treatment options.

Our dedicated hip and knee osteoarthritis exercise and education program is run by physiotherapist Sabine Groscurth. This GLA:D program has been shown to slow disease progression, lower pain medication usage and improve function. For further information speak to our reception team.