Osteoarthritis is a debilitating condition where the movement, flexibility, and overall performance of your joints breaks down over time. While there isn’t a cure or permanent solution, there are several modern osteoarthritis treatment options that can significantly improve your quality of life (and reduce pain).
Below are the 5 most common treatment options we recommend at Athletic Edge Sports Medicine.
Typically used for injury rehabilitation, physiotherapy’s focus on movement and exercise make it an ideal alternative (or supplement) to pharmaceuticals and surgery for OA sufferers. Guided exercise can improve your range of motion, decrease swelling, and engage stabilizing muscles to decrease stress on your joints.
Before any recommendations are made, your physiotherapist will need to conduct an initial assessment.
During this session, your physiotherapist will determine the source (and extent) of your pain, potential issues with your movement (things like range of motion, posture, gait, etc.), and mechanical weaknesses (strength, flexibility, etc.) that may be exacerbating your condition. This assessment is used to create a custom treatment plan to address mechanical problems.
A treatment plan typically lasts 6 weeks or more.
Initially, the physiotherapist may recommend basic strength and flexibility exercises in order to get the ball rolling. As mobility improves and pain decreases, new exercises will be added to the mix to maximize recovery. During this period, your physiotherapist should be monitoring your progress closely. It may be necessary to modify your treatment plan after a few weeks of exercises.
Additionally, in-person treatment sessions may also involve:
- Manual Therapy
- Chiropractic care
These treatments help decrease pain and improve function, strength, flexibility, and your overall joint health.
Physiotherapy may also be conducted in a group exercise format like the GLA:D program.
This regimen was originally developed in Denmark and has been proven to substantially improve the health of osteoarthritis patients by reducing pain and improving function.
The GLA:D program involves very small groups, typically consisting of three to six people. It uses a preset, validated exercises in a group-based format to reduce the overall cost for patients. Typically, the patient is required to attend these classes twice per week.
An additional benefit of GLA:D is its peer support model — patients are able to share their experience and recovery cycles with others suffering from the same disease.
Research has proven this sort of peer support network to be highly advantageous in terms of emotional well-being and overall recovery cycles.
AESM’s partnership with the University of Toronto validates our superior approach to physiotherapy solutions. Contact us today to see how we can help you ease your pain.
Viscosupplementation – also known as hyaluronic acid injection – is the process of injecting a lubricating fluid into the affected joint.
The main component of the injection is a synthetic copy of a naturally occurring protein that has been shown to decrease pain and improve function. Because this treatment is based on a compound present in your body, there’s only a 1% chance of a negative reaction.
On average, patients with moderate to advanced osteoarthritis require an injection every six months. Those diagnosed with osteoarthritis earlier may only need it once every year.
Many extended healthcare plans cover viscosupplementation for osteoarthritis, making it a cost-effective treatment for many Canadians.
3. Custom knee braces
Custom knee braces are particularly useful for patients suffering from osteoarthritis. They are light, carbon fiber supports that limit your range of motion and decrease stress on your joints.
Custom braces for knee osteoarthritis have demonstrated to show significant improvement in patient symptoms.
While the brace can take some getting used to, its light construction means that it won’t get in your way during the day. They are also custom fitted to your leg to ensure a good fit. Patients who are accustomed to their knee brace hardly notice them at all.
At Athletic Edge, we have patients wearing those braces on a daily basis when they do physical work. For example, we have patients that are on their feet for 12 hours per day for work, and they wear their braces for entire shifts. We also have patients who wear their braces only for strenuous activities (like skiing or running), and they find them comfortable enough to perform at a high level.
The brace cost is usually covered by extended healthcare benefits, so the only cost to patients is their copayment.
The fitting process is a 15 minute appointment with one of our trained professionals. The turnaround time on manufacturing of the brace a is approximately 10 business days, when the patient will come back in for a final fitting. Any issues in terms of fit can be dealt with at that second session.
Decrease pain and improve mobility.
4. Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP)
PRP is a naturally occurring substance in your body that helps ward off infection and fight disease. The notion behind injecting PRP is to use the body’s natural healing powers to try and alter the function of the organic component of the joint that make up the cartilage (the collagen matrix).
Think of cartilage like a mattress:
Below the outer layer of your cartilage, there’s a matrix of collagen fibers interwoven with one another like a mattress (or a sponge) which provides the support structure. And so, the springier that matrix is, then the more shock absorption the cartilage is able to provide.
Damaged cartilage (which leads to the onset of osteoarthritis) is targeted with PRP injections in order to help boost the recovery process.
Here’s how it works:
A small blood sample is extracted, and the vial is inserted into a spinning centrifuge to remove the red and white blood cells. The remaining fluid is injected into the joint affected by osteoarthritis. The platet rich plasma is then injected into collagen fibers so they become stronger, thicker, and again, more resilient, which then gives the cartilage a better ability to absorb shock.
PRP has about an 80% success rate in reducing pain and improving function. The entire process from start to finish takes about 15 or 20 minutes.
PRP has few to no side effects because unnatural substances and synthetic drugs are not involved in the procedure. The only slight risk is with the use of needles which may cause infection — but this is extremely rare.
5. Diet and supplements
Maintaining your health and diet can play a large role in effective osteoarthritis prevention. This helps to keep weight at a manageable level and improve muscle strength and flexibility.
Supplementation aims to address intrinsic factors to support cartilage (micronutrient deficiencies and imbalances).
This is where treatments like glucosamine and chondroitin come in. These supplements should be taken on a daily basis to help the health of the cartilage. There is some evidence to suggest that they can be helpful for symptoms, and some evidence to show supplements can be used to slow the progression of arthritis.
Athletic Edge Sports Medicine’s trained professionals are experts at diagnosing and recommending personalized treatment options for your osteoarthritis.
Contact us today to see how we can assist.