Osteoarthritis affects over 3 million people in the US every year. More common in men under the age of 45, and becomes more common in women after this age. It can be caused by weight, genetics, aging, history of injury or surgery, overuse of repetitive movements of the joint, and joints that do not form correctly.
Symptoms are usually stiffness, joint changes that limit joint movement, swelling in or around that joint, feelings that the joint is unstable or loose, and changes in the ability to move the joint.
Osteoarthritis definition taken from the CDC:
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis. Some people call it degenerative joint disease or “wear and tear” arthritis. It occurs most frequently in the hands, hips, and knees.
With OA, the cartilage within a joint begins to break down and the underlying bone begins to change. These changes usually develop slowly and get worse over time. OA can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling. In some cases it also causes reduced function and disability; some people are no longer able to do daily tasks or work.
As evidenced in this study, most patients can return to activities they have avoided or more normal functional movements due to pain with PT intervention/specified exercise plans of care:
Physical therapy for patients with knee and hip osteoarthritis: supervised, active treatment is current best practice
Skou ST, Roos EM.
Clin Exp Rheumatol. 2020 Sep-Oct;38(5):1036. Epub 2020 Oct 2.
Most patients with knee and hip osteoarthritis (OA) should be treated in primary care by non-surgical treatments. Building on substantial evidence from randomised trials, exercise therapy and education, typically delivered by physical therapists, are core first line treatments universally recommended in treatment guidelines for OA alongside weight loss, if needed. Exercise therapy provides at least as effective pain relief as pharmacological pain medications, without serious adverse effects; furthermore, the treatment effect from exercise therapy is similar, irrespective of baseline pain intensity and radiographic OA severity. Exercise therapy should be individualised to the preferences and needs of the individual patient, but at least 12 supervised sessions, 2 sessions per week, are required initially to obtain sufficient clinical benefit. Structured patient education concerning OA and its treatment options, including self-management, is important to retain motivation and adherence to an exercise program and thereby maintain the effects over the long-term. If treatment effects from exercise therapy and patient education are insufficient, the physical therapist can deliver supplementary interventions that include knee orthoses and manual treatment.
Patients diagnosed with OA would benefit from skilled PT to assess and address their deficits with specialized exercise plans and possible manual treatment. It will reduce symptoms and improve these deficits to allow patient to return to activities with less pain or difficulty. In worst case scenario, prepare the patient for a better recovery if surgery is needed.