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​​​​​​Hip and Knee Osteoarthritis:​
The best treatment approach to living well again with osteoarthritis

Hip and Knee Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common cause of pain in older individuals, often seen as a result of wear and tear on the joints. As people live longer, more experience OA through friends and family.

OA affects the joint cartilage, leading to pain, swelling, and limited movement as it wears down with age.

Unlike a condition that needs curing, OA is a chronic issue similar to hypertension or diabetes, and effective coping strategies can be learned. Among various treatment options, exercise therapy is proven to be the safest and most effective. Make exercise the foundation of your plan for successful management.

Most often, individuals who understand OA cope best. There is no way you can cure OA, but there are plenty of methods to assist you in coping effectively.

Facts & myths about OA:

Myth: The extent of degeneration visible on my x-ray accurately reflects the severity of joint damage.

Symptoms differ from person to person and often do not align with the degree of degeneration. Depending solely on scan results can be misleading.

Myth: Exercise is risky for my degenerative joint.

Contrary to the myth, not only is exercise safe, but it is also internationally acknowledged as the most effective way to treat OA. Additionally, it is important to dispel the belief that OA is inevitably progressive—it doesn't have to worsen over time.

Myth: A well-designed treatment plan can help many individuals improve symptoms and avoid surgery.

While OA is commonly associated with aging, it is a misconception that it exclusively affects the elderly. Younger people, especially those who have experienced joint injuries, can also be affected by OA.

Signs and Symptons

Osteoarthritis (OA) shows up as pain, swelling, and limited movement in the hip or knee joints. The pain gets worse when doing activities like walking or running and gets better with rest. It can come and go based on how much you do.

At first, the pain may not happen often, so you might not think much about it. But as it becomes more frequent, it can affect many parts of your life. It can make it hard to do social activities, climb stairs, work, or even do everyday tasks.

People with OA often find that resting helps the pain, but if you do not do anything about it, the symptoms usually come back. For many, the pain becomes a regular part of their lives if it is not treated.

Why do I get osteoarthritis?

Several factors can raise your risk of developing hip or knee OA over your lifetime. Some of these factors can be changed, while others cannot.


  • Lifestyle: smoking, overweight, lack of, or excessive exercise
  • Strength: weak hip and knee muscles

  • Trauma: previous hip/knee injuries increases your risk 3-5x
  • Knee deformity: “Bow-legged” or “Knocked knee”

What are some effective treatment methods?

Effective therapy
  • Strengthening exercise Weight loss 
  • Walk, cycle, swim 
  • Activity pacing strategies

Complementary therapy
  • Pain relief: Medication, knee brace, electrical stimulation, heat/cold therapy, acupuncture, massage/ stretching, injections.

Medical treatment
  • ​Joint Replacement Surgery is recommended only for joint deformity or if you have not responded to a sustained exercise program prescribed by a physiotherapist.

How long does it take for me to get better?

Typically, with an effective treatment plan, you should notice well-managed pain and gradual improvement each week. Some people see changes in 4 weeks, while others take about 2 months. Everyone is unique!

Since OA pain can vary, you might have good and bad days. Experiencing challenging periods does not mean it is worsening — it is just part of the condition's pattern.

Learning useful coping techniques is crucial for this journey. By doing so, you can decrease the frequency of difficult days and still engage in activities you value.

Activity Pacing

Consistency is key. With the ups and downs of OA pain, it is common to be more active on 'good' days and rest on 'bad' days. Physiotherapists call this the "boom and bust" pattern, often linked with setbacks.

Mastering activity pacing is crucial for managing chronic pain. There is a straightforward guide to help you do more without worsening your overall condition. Consult your physiotherapist for guidance on this.

How do I know I am getting better?

Research indicates that individuals with OA can see improvements in pain, walking speed, and distance. You may also gain better control over your pain.

Consistently following the recommended strategies increases the likelihood of experiencing these positive effects over time.

Ensure your treatment plan aligns with your objectives by openly discussing your goals with your physiotherapist.

- Article contributed by Physiotherapy, Rehabilitation, Allied Health Services -

Senior Health; Body Care

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