Better than a cure – Our surgeon’s tips for preventing osteoarthritis
The most successful orthopaedic surgery is the one that never happens. Osteoarthritis is one of the main suspects in hip and knee injury. We share our best tips for avoiding it entirely.
What is osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis refers to damage or defect in articular cartilage – the soft material that coats the ending of a bone in a joint. Cartilage serves as a lubricant that allows the bones in a joint to move smoothly with each other – if this cartilage becomes damaged, the bones can no longer move freely, and joint pain results.
Basically, osteoarthritis is any condition that relates to wear and tear of the articular cartilage in a joint, and results in pain or stops regular joint use.
What are the risk factors for osteoarthritis?
Many of the risk factors related to osteoarthritis – especially in the knees and hips – are familial (ie. run in families) old sports injuries, obesity, but most commonly it occurs with old age without any previous risk factors.
Interestingly, a study conducted by the University of Adelaide found that intense exercise while overweight could increase the risk of osteoarthritis, especially in the elderly. If you decide to exercise, make sure to start slow!
I don’t have osteoarthritis. What should I do to reduce my risk?
Anything you can do to reduce the stress on your joints will reduce your risk of osteoarthritis. The most effective methods of osteoarthritis management are lifestyle centric – while not everybody can quit a labour-intensive job, maintaining a healthy weight can do wonders. Studies show that losing 5 kg (or entering the healthy weight range) can reduce the need for orthopaedic surgery by 24%.
I already have osteoarthritis. Is surgery my only option?
Far from it! Symptoms can be managed, and surgery is considered the last option in most cases. Exercise, weight loss, physical therapy, orthopaedic care and medication are the most common treatments. A joint replacement is necessary only in severe cases. Consult your GP for more information.