How Can You Improve the Symptoms of Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a disease of the locomotor system that mainly affects the adult population. What occurs is a gradual degeneration of the articular cartilage, the extracellular matrix, and the subchondral bone. It may seem complex, but the fact is that the symptoms of osteoarthritis lead to a loss of quality of life for those who have this condition.
It’s a disease that develops slowly and progressively. The most common signs and symptoms are pain, swelling, stiffness, synovitis, deformity, and joint noises.
If you notice that you’re beginning to feel these symptoms, it’s a good idea to go to a specialist for a correct diagnosis and prescription of the treatment to follow.
The treatment of osteoarthritis
The treatment for osteoarthritis can be divided into several different dimensions:
- Medical treatment
- Physiotherapy and rehabilitation
- Surgical treatment
In addition, it seems logical that people at risk for this disease should also modify their lifestyle habits with the aim of preventing this condition. For example, some risk factors are obesity, ligament or meniscus injuries, work activities, recreational activities, and hip diseases in childhood (2).
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Recommendations for improving the symptoms of osteoarthritis in your daily life
Apart from pharmacological treatment, experts recommend performing certain simple therapeutic measures in daily life.
1. Get educated about the condition
It’s important for patients with chronic diseases to learn as much as possible about their diseases. In particular, people with osteoarthritis should have the origins and course of their condition explained to them by an expert.
In addition, it’s also a good idea to emphasize the progression of the disease, which is usually slow. Affected people often think that they will have disabilities and deformities in the short term, which is why it’s good to explain that this isn’t always the case.
2. Weight loss for the symptoms of osteoarthritis
When it comes to osteoarthritis, obesity is a very important risk factor. By reducing your weight, even by a small percentage, a quite remarkable decrease in pain can occur. That’s why losing weight if you are above ideal weight is highly recommended.
If you’re obese or not an ideal weight, then it’s important to adopt a healthier lifestyle. In short, adopting proper self-care and taking care of your body properly can be crucial for those who have osteoarthritis.
3. Exercise for osteoarthritis symptoms
Exercise has been shown to be clearly beneficial when it comes to controlling pain and functionality in certain osteoarthritic joints, such as the knees. Walking, swimming, or cycling are generally recommended. Activities involving joint overload and physical contact should be avoided, however.
On the other hand, there are several gymnastic exercises recommended by rheumatology specialists. They should be performed with the joint unloaded and are specific for each joint. Some mobility exercises are as follows:
- Cervical exercises: In an upright position, place your arms at the sides of your body. Then, you should raise your shoulders without moving your head, hold this for a couple of seconds, and return to the starting position.
- Back exercises: Start lying face down on a mat on the floor. Then you should place your hands on your waist and raise your head and trunk upwards as much as possible. After, return to the initial position.
- Lumbar exercises: To do this exercise, lie on your back with your knees bent while resting the soles of your feet on the floor. Then, your buttocks should be lifted upwards. Hold this position for 1 to 2 seconds and then return to the starting position.
- Knee exercises: While lying on your back, you should raise your leg fully extended and hold it for a couple of seconds, then lower it gradually.
- Hip exercises: To do this exercise, you should lie on your back with your legs extended. Then, you should bend your knee over your thigh and your thigh over your abdomen. This stretch should be performed according to the capacity of each person.
This type of joint mobility exercise should be performed 2 to 3 times a day, every day. Mild discomfort is normal after performing the exercises during the first few days. However, if the pain persists, don’t hesitate to consult a health professional.
5. Heat therapy
The application of local heat to the affected joints increases blood circulation, relieves pain, and relaxes the muscles. Home remedies such as hot water bottles, heating mats, or hot packs can be used. However, you should avoid the application of compresses with very hot water, since it can injure the skin.
Generally, during the phase of joint pain, local heat can be applied 1 to 2 times a day for 15 to 20 minutes. Similarly, visits to spas and thermal locations 1 to 2 times a year are largely beneficial to improving the discomfort of osteoarthritis.
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6. Rest and massages for the symptoms of osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is a disease with intermittent phases of pain. During this period, it’s advisable not to demand too much from our body and to maintain a relative state of rest. In this sense, we should avoid carrying heavy objects, standing for long periods of time, or working long hours.
On the other hand, massages are a great help to promote blood flow and muscle strength. They should be performed by professionals and be directed at the ligaments, muscles, and tendons around the joint, rather than the joint itself.
7. Joint protection measures
In general, people with osteoarthritis of the hip, knee, and lumbar spine should wear shoes with thick rubber soles to absorb joint shock. Flat shoes are recommended and high heels should be avoided.
In addition, professionals recommend avoiding walking on hard and uneven surfaces. It’s advisable to walk on grass or sand, as it reduces the mechanical force of the impact.
8. Maintain proper postural hygiene
To take care of joint health and reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis, you should avoid sitting on very soft furniture or armchairs. In this case, chairs with straight backs are best so that the spine and hips maintain a natural position. In addition, it’s a good idea to sleep on flat beds that aren’t too soft.
9. Instruments of support for the symptoms of osteoarthritis
The use of a cane in the contralateral hand to the affected joint, either knee or hip, is useful to reduce the overload, up to 60% in the case of the hip, which significantly relieves pain.
On the other hand, to alleviate the pain in the knee, it may be useful to wear wedge soles. Other instruments, such as a knee brace, can also be helpful in the case of tibia or femur pain, for example.
Overall, the main treatment for osteoarthritis is usually medication. However, to improve the symptoms of osteoarthritis, it can be very good to take these measures described depending on the ailment that is present.