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Osteoarthritis or OA, otherwise known as “wear and tear arthritis” is a degenerative condition and the most common form of arthritis. It most commonly affects the hands, spine, hips and knees. Osteoarthritis is by far the most common reason for joint replacement surgery when pain and disability from the worn joint causes significant functional limitation.

For those who suffer from arthritis, colder, wet weather during winter may cause an exacerbation of his or her usual symptoms.

Who gets OA?

OA is listed in the top 5 chronic diseases affecting Australians.

Whilst this is essentially a wear and tear phenomenon, there are some factors that increase your risk such as

  1. Family history
  2. Females have a higher risk than males.
  3. As we get older, OA becomes more common.
  4. Overuse or joint injury.

Recent data by the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that approximately 9% of Australians have OA with the onset of OA increasing sharply after the age of 45.

Why does the wet and cold affect OA sufferers?

Although there has been a lot of research around the question of the wet and cold affects of OA symptoms, there is no definitive answer. But the data tells us that all OA sufferers claim an increase in pain and that symptoms are harder to manage during cold or wet weather.

If you have OA, what can you do to help winter prevent aches and pains?

There are some simple hints and tips to help with managing your OA during the colder weather.

Tip 1 – Dress warmly

Not always an issue in the Sunshine State – but not to be overlooked. This is a simple tip, but it works – although if you like to exercise or if you’re employed in active manual work it can be harder and you may only need to do this in the early morning and in the evening when the temperature drops.

Keep your extremities warm and give special attention to your head, hands and feet and try to avoid getting your feet wet or damp.

Tip 2 – Don’t stop exercising

It’s easy for us to fall into hibernation mode in the colder months, but exercise is one of the best things to do for arthritic pain as it lubricates our joints. If it’s too cold for your normal routine, try to some other options like treadmills, aerobics, yoga and dancing. Also add in some lifestyle modification changes like using the stairs instead of taking the lift or escalator and if you like to swim – use a heated pool as warm water is very beneficial to OA.

Exercise is one of the best things to do to ease arthritic pain.

Tip 3 – Hot and cold therapy

The use of hot and cold treatments are a tried and proven method for managing arthritis pain. Enjoy some long warm showers and baths – your joints will thank you for the indulgence. You can also try hot packs.

Tip 4 – Diet

There has been so much research focused on the types of food that will assist in fighting joint inflammation.. Include in your diet foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as fish (especially salmon, tuna, trout and mackerel) and vegies are good too – add in some brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale, and cauliflower.

Tip 5- Lose Weight

One of the best things you can do to assist with your OA is to lose some extra weight. A loss of  5 – 10 kilos will make a significant difference to the strain of  your joints  and the management of your pain and symptoms.

What medicines or treatment options available to reduce arthritic pain?

There are a number of non-prescription and prescription medicines that can assist with the management of OA pain including:

  • Paracetamol to reduce pain
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce pain, swelling, and fever.
  • Steroid injections in the joint to reduce swelling

Can OA be healed naturally?

Unfortunately no. As OA is a chronic degenerative disease it can’t be “healed”. As the disease progresses, it continues to deteriorate the joint to “bone on bone” which causes severe pain, stiffness, deformity and functional impairment. This is often when we will recommend a joint replacement.

Hip and knee joint replacements are recognised world-wide as one of the most successful surgeries performed giving people the ability to resume an active, independent life.

If I am suffering from OA and struggling to manage my pain and symptoms, what should I do?

If you are struggling with your OA or would like to learn more about what the stage of your arthritis is, please visit the Conditions section of our website www.orthoclinics.com.au  or arrange for a consultation. We’ll be happy to arrange for our doctors to talk to you and see how we can help relieve your pain and restore you back to an active life.