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Too young for osteoarthritis? Think again!

August 24th, 2022

Although people often associate osteoarthritis (OA) with the elderly, many people in their 20s and 30s have this disease. OA affects more than 10 per cent of Canadians aged 15 or older, more than all other forms of arthritis combined Fortunately, Legacies Health Centre offers various integrated health services for individuals of all ages suffering from osteoarthritis. Here’s more information on the causes, symptoms of OA and available treatments. 

What’s osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition that develops when the cartilage — the slippery tissue that cushions the ends of the bones in the joints — becomes rough and wears away. As a result, the unprotected bones start to rub together, causing pain, stiffness and decreased mobility.

It most commonly affects the knees, hips, and joints in the hands and spine. Unlike many other forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis doesn’t affect other body organs. However, OA can lead to emotional complications, such as anxiety and depression brought on by the loss of function. 

What causes osteoarthritis?

Doctors aren’t sure what exactly causes osteoarthritis. However, it develops when the body cannot correctly repair joint tissue. That’s why it’s often called the “wear and tear” disease. Here are a few factors that can increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis:

  • Joint injury. Acute direct trauma to the joints and damage from past surgeries can increase the risk of developing OA.
  • Sports. Young people who are active and participate in sports like football, soccer and rugby are at an increased risk for OA.
  • Obesity. Developing obesity in early adulthood can put additional stress on weight-bearing joints, increasing the risk of developing OA in the knees and ankles.
  • Occupation. Physically demanding jobs that involve repetitive movements, like kneeling, squatting and lifting, can increase the risk of having OA.
  • Genetics. Having a parent, grandparent or sibling with OA can increase the risk of getting the condition earlier.
  • Gender. Osteoarthritis is more common in women than men. 

You can’t prevent osteoarthritis altogether. However, you may be able to minimize your risk by avoiding injury and living a healthy lifestyle.

Osteoarthritis Symptoms 

OA usually develops gradually over many years. However, it can worsen quickly in some people. People with osteoarthritis often experience the following symptoms in one or more joints:

  • Pain or aching around the joint, especially after physical activity
  • Stiffness and swelling around the joint in the morning or after resting
  • Difficulty moving the affected joint
  • Popping, clicking or grating sounds when the joint bends
  • Weakness in the muscles around the joint
  • Joint instability or buckling

OA can be mild for some people. However, it can cause significant pain and disability for others. It’s important to talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing persistent symptoms of osteoarthritis. They’ll confirm the diagnosis and prescribe the necessary treatment.

Osteoarthritis Treatment

Although there’s no cure for osteoarthritis, physiotherapy is one of the most effective ways to ease unpleasant symptoms. This therapy focuses on maintaining the body’s ability to move by strengthening the muscles around the affected joints. Using physiotherapy helps decrease swelling and improve range of motion.

Your physiotherapist may also recommend trying extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT). This therapy works by administering a series of pressurized air wave pulsations to the affected area to stimulate the body’s soft tissues and promote healing. ESWT has beneficial effects on cartilage, subchondral bone and surrounding tissues, which can help relieve the chronic pain of OA.

Additionally, your physiotherapist may provide assistive devices like special footwear or insoles to help distribute your body weight more evenly if OA affects your knees, hips or feet. Splints, leg braces and supportive dressings may also be prescribed to support a painful joint.

Many people find acupuncture and massage therapy effective at easing the discomfort associated with OA. Both approaches address arthritis symptoms by focusing on the impacted muscles and tissues to reduce pain and swelling and encourage relaxation and stress relief.

Physiotherapy and sports medicine in Market Crossing

At Legacies Health Centre, our physiotherapists use the latest technology, equipment and techniques to provide comprehensive, personalized solutions to treat the pain and discomfort associated with osteoarthritis. In addition to physiotherapy, we offer acupuncture, massage, and shockwave therapy, all under one roof. With online booking and four clinics across the Lower Mainland, we’re committed to making your road to pain relief convenient and accessible. Contact us today to book an appointment.