One of the most common forms of arthritis is osteoarthritis. It damages your joints through wear and tear. It can be painful and depressing. There is no cure, but there are ways of managing the condition and making life easier. Physiotherapy is an important part of that management.

How Does Osteoarthritis Affect People?

Most people develop some degree of osteoarthritis especially as they get older. The changes are permanent and will exist even when there are no symptoms. Osteoarthritis affects people in varying degrees. Some people may be symptom-free or suffer only mild or intermittent pain provoked by episodes of increased use or minor trauma. For some people symptoms can be disabling and, when it involves the larger joints of the body such as the hip or the knee, the severity of the problem may require surgical treatment.

Normal joint
Wear and tear of our joints may
occur due to aging, injury, prolonged poor posture, overuse of joints, or excess weight.

Osteoarthritis is one of 150 different forms of arthritis for which there are different treatments. Your general medical practitioner can make a diagnosis. Treatment may include anti-inflammatory medication and/or physiotherapy.

How Physiotherapy Can Help

Physiotherapists are highly qualified in the assessment and treatment of the effects of osteoarthritis.
Physiotherapy can:
bullet reduce pain
bullet improve movement and posture
bullet strengthen muscles
bullet improve independent function
Treatment methods may include gentle passive movement, heat, electrical treatments, hydrotherapy, splints and advice on preventing further joint damage.
Symptoms and Signs

bullet recurring pain or tenderness in a joint
bullet stiffness, particularly early morning stiffness
bullet swelling in a joint
bullet obvious redness or heat in a joint
bullet inability to move a joint
How You Can Help:

bullet always respect pain
bullet avoid overstressing joints
bullet avoid jerky/sudden movements
bullet don't overload joints
bullet take care with lifting
bullet watch your weight
bullet use splints or walking aids as advised
bullet use labour saving devices
bullet don't overdo activity or exercises

Exercises - How Do They Help?

Exercises for people with osteoarthritis should be individually prescribed. Your physiotherapist can devise a programme of exercises to suit your condition. As a general rule remember if any exercise hurts then DON'T DO IT.

Exercises help by:
bullet maintaining or increasing movement
bullet improving joint lubrication and nutrition
bullet restoring muscle balance
bullet improving circulation
bullet improving strength and stability
bullet improving poor posture

Couple walking
Don't forget to maintain your GENERAL FITNESS LEVEL - this helps you feel better and retain your healthy joints. Gentle regular exercises such as swimming, exercising in water (hydrotherapy), walking or cycling are recommended.


Rest is an important part of managing your osteoarthritis. Usually rest is balanced with exercises and activity. In particular rest is required when joints are HOT, SWOLLEN OR PAINFUL.

Woman in chair


Physiotherapists in private practice are listed in the Yellow Pages. Each Branch of the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) publishes a register of its members in private practice. Check for the initials M.A.P.A. after the physiotherapists name. Members of the APA are bound by a professional Code of Ethics and have access to extensive postgraduate education programmes.

Health Rebates

You may consult a physiotherapist either directly or by referral from your medical practitioner. Rebates for treatment costs are available under higher table health insurance schemes.

Man swimming
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Move well. Stay well.
By courtesy of the Australian Physiotherapy Association