by Ian Murray B HSc (Acu), Registered Acupuncturist and Chinese Medicine Practitioner at Kenmore Centre for Health
Osteoarthritis of the knee is a common condition which makes performing simple daily tasks painful and difficult. This pain often leads to reduced physical activity and weight gain, which then adds additional stress to the knees sustaining a vicious cycle. Good management of this common condition is key to keeping active and maintaining a healthy weight and vitality.
Osteoarthritis is where the normally smooth, shock absorbing joint surfaces inside the knee erode or wear down leaving the ends of the bones unprotected. It is a degenerative form of arthritis and for many people there is no clear cause. Although there is no cure for osteoarthritis, the condition can be managed by maximising the health of the remaining joint cartilage and maintaining joint movement. For many this can be achieved with appropriate use of pain medication, exercise, Acupuncture and nutritional supplementation.
There is much research to supportAcupuncture playing a key role by reducing swelling and inflammation, providing pain relief and improving joint function. The results of one study showed that after 8 weeks of treatment, pain and joint function were improved more with acupuncture than in either of the control groups in the study. This study is typically what we find in clinic and after this initial course of treatment I find results can usually be maintained by a follow up treatment once every four to eight weeks.
Once pain is under control, exercise is one of the best ways to continue to manage this condition. Regular exercise works when performed correctly because it increases muscle strength and support, joint range of motion, balance and stamina. Exercise also plays a major part in weight management; reducing the stress of excess weight on affected joints. Be sure to choose a low-impact activity such as walking, cycling, water exercises or Tai Chi that won’t aggravate your symptoms.
Useful supplements include high doses of omega-3 fish oils and glucosamine sulphate and chondroiton. Omega-3 fish oil can reduce inflammation and there is some evidence that both glucosamine sulphate and chondroitin can slow the progress of cartilage breakdown in the knee and that chondroitin may repair damaged cartilage. Professional advice should be sought before taking high doses of fish oils due to its blood thinning effect. Following these recommendations can lead to reduced pain and inflammation, increased joint function and a return to a more active, healthier and fulfilling life. If symptoms persist then your GP may have some other options for you to consider.