Rehabilitating Osteoarthritis After Age 50
For men over 50, osteoarthritis rehabilitation requires both consistency and persistence
If you’re a man over 50 and have received an osteoarthritis diagnosis, you need a game plan. While most orthopedists can very accurately identify this degenerative joint disease, very few can offer a viable rehabilitation regimen.
Rehabilitating an osteoarthritic joint provides the very best non-surgical option for maintaining joint useability and, more importantly, an active lifestyle allowing you to do the things you want to do.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease where the soft cartridge deteriorates. This soft cartridge provides the smooth, soft, lubricated surface where important bones join together, including shoulders, knees and hips, held and moved by tendons and by muscles. When the cartridge goes, you’re left with an uneven contact surface at best, and bone-on-bone contact at worst.
Joint-replacement surgery provides an option for worst-case scenarios, but these procedures are highly invasive and not always necessary. As an osteoarthritis patient, you may want to consider the rehabilitation route as a first alternative. Ultimately, joint-replacement surgery is a personal choice, but attempting rehabilitation makes sense as a first attempt at living with an osteoarthritic joint.
Just like a healthy joint, an osteoarthritic joint is only as strong as the muscles and tendons that hold the bones in place. Additionally, joint range of motion, or flexibility, is determined by the length and by the stretching capabilities of muscles and tendons. You should always consult with your doctor, but typically the best thing for an osteoarthritic joint is keeping it active through building muscle strength through resistance training and through increasing flexibility with stretching.
The rehabilitation dilemma for most OA patients stems from discomfort, party coming from joint friction and partly coming from muscle and tendon discomfort caused by stretching into increased range of motion. The difficulty lies in knowing what’s causing the discomfort and in the individual’s personal and unique ability to tolerate this discomfort. Generally speaking, any joint will signal discomfort when pushed beyond its present levels of strength and flexibility, however this activity is exactly what improves a joint’s health and useability.
Again, any OA rehabilitation program must start with your doctor, typically an orthopedic specialist, and many orthopedists sub-specialize on specific joints such as shoulders, knees, and hips, while others may specialize in just arthritic conditions. Additionally, a qualified physical therapist should be consulted on a proper program of strength and flexibility increases, especially for anyone with a limited workout background.
That said, responsibility for rehabilitating an osteoarthritic joint lies with the individual patient. No program can have effect without disciplined implementation on a daily basis. Expect discomfort, it will be part of the process. Simple approaches such as over the counter anti-inflammatories and local icing can help. However, OA patients must remember that they have a sick joint, and strengthening and flexibility therapy will cause discomfort that the patient must push through. Having a better functioning joint will be worth enduring the work involved. While we can’t make osteoarthritis go away, we can incrementally improve the condition as a first option to joint replacement surgery.