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Osteoarthritis - from a physiotherapist’s perspective.

Posted by Eamonn Brady on

Arthritis is a term that has been used to describe joint related problems for generations. Other terms such as rheumatism, wear and tear and degeneration have also been used. Given the many terms out there to describe joint aches and pains, many people have become confused with what Arthritis and particular Osteoarthritis really is.  If we break down the word Osteoarthritis; “Osteo” relates to bone and cartilage and the “arthritis” relates to inflammation of a joint. Put simply then, this disease relates to break down of cartilage and bone causing inflammatory changes and pain in affected joints.

Not just due to aging

Osteoarthritis is the most common condition affecting our joints and the main symptoms that people suffer are pain, stiffness and swelling sometimes especially worse in the morning or after prolonged activity. There has been a vast amount of research conducted into the cause of Osteoarthritis and for years’ scientists believed that it was down to the “wear and tear” of the joint over time. This view is changing however and now we understand that it is a combination of factors that can lead to developing this condition. The main factors include our genes, being overweight and previous injury or repetitive trauma to the joint.  Various genetic traits that affect collagen production in our body have been discovered in recent years which may predispose certain people to this condition more so than others. Being overweight, has for many years been known to play a major role in cartilage breakdown and coupled together with the wrong genetic trait can lead to cartilage breaking down even faster. Injuries such as fractures; ligament tears or repetitive strains have also been known to predispose people to osteoarthritis but again this is mostly in combination with the factors mentioned above.

Diagnosis of osteoarthritis is mainly made through taking a health and symptom history and through a physical examination. Many changes occur to our joints throughout our life time and given this context it is sometimes difficult to figure out what is normal joint changes for our age and what is abnormal; therefore the aid of x-ray, MRI Scans and joint aspiration may also be used to make a diagnosis.

Treatment options

Unfortunately given all the medical advances made over the last few years in particular, there is no cure for Osteoarthritis. Treatments are available however to help the symptoms and long term management strategies can keep the disease relatively controlled. Severe disability and pain from osteoarthritis can be reduced through surgical interventions such as total Knee and hip replacements to name a few. Other less invasive interventions centre around use of medications and physical activity. Physical activity prescribed in a structured and safe way can help improve joint mobility and flexibility. Safe Physical activity can also help maintain a healthy weight which as we mentioned above can decrease the risk of excessive cartilage breakdown. Overall if you are concerned regarding the management or treatment of Osteoarthritis seek help from your local Health Professional.

When could you need a physiotherapist?

A physiotherapist’s role is to treat people with physical difficulties due to a medical condition, physical injury, disability or ageing. Physiotherapists work with patients to diagnose and treat issues with movement and function. Physiotherapists promote rehabilitation by developing and restoring the body’s neuromuscular, musculoskeletal, cardiovascular and respiratory systems. They develop and monitor treatment programmes which comprise of manual therapy, movement, therapeutic exercise and the application of technological equipment, e.g. ultrasound, TENs. Physiotherapists also provide advice on how to avoid injury (eg) stretching, breathing exercises.

Chartered Physiotherapist

It is important to ensure your physiotherapist is a Chartered Physiotherapist recognised by the only governing body in the Republic of Ireland called the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists (ISCP). By choosing a Chartered Physiotherapist, you are choosing a professional who has scientific approach to the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of your complaint. A simple way of checking if your physiotherapist is a Chartered Physiotherapist is by going to the ISCP website (; by clicking on the section, “Is your physiotherapist chartered?” and when you type in the name of your Physiotherapist, if he/she is a Chartered Physiotherapist, it will confirm this as well as their county of practice. Chartered Physiotherapists are recognised and covered by VHI, Laya Healthcare, AVIVA and other health insurance schemes.


Health Step Physiotherapy

Health Step Physiotherapy, operated Chartered Physiotherapist, Kevin Conneely MISCP at Whelehans Pharmacy offers reduced physiotherapy rates for under-18s, students with valid student ID and for Over 65’s. He also offers reduced rates for affiliated sports clubs and other groups. Simply contact Kevin on 087 4626 093 to advice or call Whelehans at 04493 34591 to book an appointment.

Top orthopaedic surgeon coming to Mullingar to speak about Osteoarthritis

Whelehans Pharmacy in conjunction with Westmeath Branch of Arthritis Ireland is hosting an Osteoarthritis Information evening on Thursday May 12th in the Greville Arms Hotel, Mullingar at 7pm. Guest speaker is consultant orthopaedic surgeon from Midland Hospital Tullamore, David Cogley, MD FRCS (Ortho). Mr Cogley will give first -hand information including surgery and aftercare for those thinking of going down this line. He will take questions from attendees. Chartered Physiotherapist Kevin Conneely MISCP of HealthStep Physiotherapy will discuss movement, exercise and the physical side of Osteoarthritis and Nutritionist Aisling Murray BSc (nutrition) will discuss how diet affects osteoarthritis. Chairperson of Arthritis Ireland (Westmeath Branch) Margaret Egerton will discuss the work and events organised by the local branch as well as a little of her personal battle with arthritis. Pharmacist Eamonn Brady MPSI, will discuss medication and how to best to manage meds.

Places are limited, so call Whelehans to book your free place now on 044 9334591

Disclaimer: Information given is general; Please ensure you consult with your healthcare professional before making any changes recommended

Thanks to Kevin Conneely, Chartered Physiotherapist from Health Step Physiotherapy based at Whelehans Pharmacy for info for this article.

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