Osteoarthritis is commonly referred to as wear-and-tear arthritis as it occurs when the cartilage (smooth elastic tissue) that protects the
ends of the bones breaks down over time. This results in pain and swelling at your major joints, often making them hard to move.
It's the most common type of arthritis and can affect any joint, however it mostly affects the weight-bearing joints in your hands, knees,
hips and feet. It can develop at any age, but you'll mostly see it in people over 40. Osteoarthritis is more common in women than men and
more commonly in those that have had joint injuries in the past.
Causes & risk factors
Cartilage is the smooth tissue that cushions the ends of your bones and allows for smooth movement between the bones, resulting in a
frictionless joint movement. This cartilage can gradually deteriorate and when it wears down completely, bone will rub on bone — this is
It was originally thought that osteoarthritis was only related to the gradual wearing down of this cartilage, however, more recently it's
been realised that in fact all of the components of the joint are involved. In addition to the cartilage thinning, osteoarthritis causes
changes on the surface of the bone, deteriorates the connective tissues of the joint, causes inflammation in the joint lining and bone
spurs may start to develop.
We use our joints every day- so unfortunately no one is 100% safe from developing osteoarthritis. However, there are certain factors that
may increase your risk of developing this condition including:
Age. It can affect people of any age, but is more common in people over 40 as your bones, muscles and joints also age.
Gender. More women than men develop osteoarthritis.
Overuse. If your job or the sports you play cause you to place repetitive
on the joints, this may increase your chances of developing osteoarthritis.
Family history. If a family member has osteoarthritis, then you're more likely to develop osteoarthritis.
Previous joint injury. Injuries that occurred from sports or any other accident, even if they happened years ago, can
increase your risk of developing osteoarthritis.
Obesity. For two reasons; the extra body weight puts more stress on your joints and fat
tissue produces proteins
that can cause harmful inflammation in and around your joints.
The symptoms of this condition vary from person to person and will depend on what joints are affected. They will start minor and
gradually worsen over time (months or years) as the joint continues to deteriorate.
The symptoms you should look out for include:
Joint pain. You will probably experience an aching pain at the joint, particularly during and after movement.
Stiffness. Particularly noticeable in the morning or after rest.
Limited range of motion. You may not be able to utilise the joints full range of motion.
Clicking noise when you bend the joint.
Swelling and tenderness around the joint.
Grating sensation when using the joint.
Diagnosis of osteoarthritis is often made using radiographic means. The most common findings on x-ray
images include loss of joint cartilage, narrowing of joint spaces and formations of small bony spurs. A MRI can also be used to rule out
other pathologies surrounding the region.
Unfortunately, there is no permanent cure for osteoarthritis. However, as it is a gradual condition that worsens over time, there are
many treatments and prevention methods we can utilise to control your symptoms and slow the progression of the condition.
Treatment will depend on the severity and location of your osteoarthritis. Our podiatrists may recommend a combination of treatments,
specific to the following locations:
Custom orthotic therapy will help to distribute the pressure in the foot when walking and standing, thus will reduce the pain when
performing daily tasks.
Foot mobilisation techniques (FMT)
In the worst cases, we may recommend rocker
to avoid prolonged contact over the big toe.
Rigid carbon fibre plate may also be recommended by the podiatrist to reduce the pressure on the painful
big toe when walking.
If your pain is causing disability that is not being relieved through non-surgical treatments, then fusion surgery may be
required, where the damaged cartilage is removed and the joint is fixed in a permanent position, usually using a plate and screws or
As a podiatrist, we often help people who are suffering from osteoarthritis in their feet, knees, hips or lower back — basically any
lower limb joint that is affected by the condition.
Obesity, diabetes and heart disease as knee or hip pain could prevent you from exercising, causing weight gain that could
lead to obesity.
Increased risk of falling as osteoarthritis decreases function and weakens muscles.
Bone spurs may start to develop and cause pain
Further damage can be done to the tendons and ligaments, which can decrease their effectiveness and lead to weakened
An infection that forms in the joints that can lead to joint deformity. It's extremely difficult to fix without reconstructive
Although rare, this condition occurs if the damage reaches a certain point, it can affect the amount of blood that flows to the bones.
Without blood, the bones will weaken, break down and die.
There are a number of lifestyle changes you can implement to reduce your risk of developing osteoarthritis:
Maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise
Try and change things up in your job & exercise routine to ensure you're not completing the same repetitive movements (eg. kneeling,
lifting or twisting) that can put stress on your joints.
Combine low-impact exercise with regular aerobic exercise. Look for activities that include strength training or stretching.
Rest, don't overuse your joints.
3 exercises to strengthen your feet
Our feet are the foundation for the entire body, so it's important that they have enough strength to tolerate our activity levels. Use
these three exercises to help strengthen your feet.
Do I need orthotics?
Not everyone needs orthotics, but they can play an integral role in treating or relieving pain in several foot and lower limb conditions.
7 tips to keep your feet healthy this summer
The heat and humidity of an Australian summer makes it a prime time for issues to arise, so our newest podiatrist Lucy has put together
seven helpful tips to keep your feet healthy and problem free throughout summer.