Osteoarthritis and What is it?

By Megan Roberson and Victoria Albert

What you need to know

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that mainly affects the joints of the knees, hands, spine, and hips. It occurs when the cushion between your joints, called cartilage, begins to break down. Cartilage is the barrier between your bones, so when it breaks down, your bones can be left rubbing together causing great pain.

What you would like to know more about...

Osteoarthritis can be caused by normal wear and tear with aging, obesity, joint injuries, genetics, among other things. Some symptoms to be aware of include pain in joints when moving, tenderness, stiffness along with loss of flexibility, and in more severe cases, grating sensations and bone spurs. If you have any of these symptoms and they last for more than a couple weeks, it may be a good time to schedule and appointment with your doctor.


It is important to stay motivated to live life to the fullest while living with osteoarthritis. Staying active and positive can keep you going and decrease barriers. By actively participating in low impact exercises, you are continuing on with your life and helping to decrease the severity of osteoarthritis by staying active. With osteoarthritis that is inhibiting your daily activities, medication and joint replacement surgery can help decrease your pain and other symptoms. These can help you to accomplish what you need to do on a day to day basis. Any emotional issues can be helped by talking it out with a support group or therapist, and know that you will come out stronger in the end.

Overcoming Barriers

There are barriers that can come about with osteoarthritis, such as the need to lose weight, dealing with emotions, learning to change your lifestyle, and so forth. Overcoming these barriers can be inspiring and make the older adult feel that they have control over their life. Some may think that they are too old to begin exercising and getting fit, but there are many great exercises that are low impact that can aid in decreasing the severity of osteoarthritis. Severe osteoarthritis may become exhausting causing constant pain and inhibiting daily activities. If this is the case, consult with your doctor to see if there may be medications out there to help you. Joint replacement surgery may be another option. Having chronic pain from osteoarthritis may cause emotional issues in which you might want to try reaching out into the community for support groups or try working on meditation and relaxation.
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What can you do?

· Tai Chi:

This is a graceful and slow moving way to reduce stress and strengthen your joints! It is also a form of meditation, so you can relax while exercising. Tai Chi is low impact, so it is actually helping to strength your joints, not hurt them further.

· Water Aerobics:

This is a great alternative to keeping you fit, but keeping those joints safe as well! It is done in a pool that is only around 3 to 4 feet deep. Then you do exercises, such as walking from one end to the other, at your own pace. This helps strengthen your joints, while not putting added stress on them.

· Range of Motion:

Range of Motion (ROM) is great to keep your osteoarthritis controlled. It is quick and simple! Doing it just a couple of times a day can keep all joints working properly. To perform ROM it is as simple as just moving. So, for each arm and leg, move them in a slow circle, forward and backward. Then bend them at your joints. Repeat, 5-10 times with breaks in between each round.

· Strengthening:

It is important to keep your joints strong. You can do simple strengthen exercises, such as taking a canned food item and bending your arm to your chest. Repeat 5-10 times with breaks and you are all good to go!! You can also sit in a chair, or couch, and stand to your feet and sit back down. This will help strengthen your leg muscles and keep your knee and hip joints moving as well.

Community Resources

Where can you go for Support?

· Local YMCA

· Church Group

· Senior Center

· Local Community Center

Do not want to travel? Look at these great resources online!

· http://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/exercise/benefits/osteoarthritis-exercise.php

· http://www.health.harvard.edu/family_health_guide/exercise-rx-for-overcoming-osteoarthritis

· http://www.spine-health.com/wellness/exercise/osteoarthritis-exercises

APA Sources

Fransen, M., McConnell, S., Harmer, A., Van der Esch, M., Simic, M., & Bennell, K. (2015). Exercise for Osteoarthritis of the Knee. Retrieved February 01, 2016.

Stevenson, J. D., & Roach, R. (2012). The benefits and barriers to physical activity and lifestyle interventions for osteoarthritis affecting the adult knee. Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Research, 7, 15. Retrieved February 02, 2016.