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A fresh perspective on osteoarthritis management

Newcastle Podiatry - Thursday, December 03, 2015

Osteoarthritis is a wearing of the smooth tissue called cartilage that allows bones to glide on one another when we move our joints. If joints are not aligned well or not functioning correctly often the “wear and tear” is exacerbated, causing pain.

I’m sure that many people can relate to the feeling of morning aches, pains and stiffness in the joints or not having that former spring in their step. Many others especially in their “retirement years” I’m sure will relate to severe and sometimes debilitating joint pain.

Quite often, as practitioners, we have discussions in our rooms about how patients have been told by doctors or surgeons that they have osteoarthritis. These patients frequently comment that there is “nothing that can be done” and tend to present frustrated or dejected by their prognosis and the limited treatment options available to them.

Pharmaceutical analgesics or surgery is regularly suggested, but sometimes isn’t convenient due to family or financial commitments. At other times it is on the surgeon’s advice that patients delay surgery for as long as possible and have to put up with ongoing pain.

In such cases podiatrists may be able to help. Indeed, there is no cure for osteoarthritis, but we can manage symptoms and causative mechanics through the use of prescription foot orthoses. By limiting unwanted movement in joints and allowing optimal movement in corrected directions or planes we can have a positive effect. We can use orthoses to unload certain joints or aspects of joints, particularly those of the toes, mid foot, heel, ankle, knees and hips.

In summary, we can’t fix osteoarthritis. However, we can offer a conservative, relatively cost effective means to manage symptoms and the problem. This is because osteoarthritis is very much a mechanical issue. Orthoses and appropriate footwear may be a means to avoid surgery, limit medication, prevent the condition from worsening or even as a short term measure until surgery is more appropriate or convenient.

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