Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most prevalent joint disorder worldwide. It is one of the most frequent causes of disability in Western populations and currently affects over 4.5 million Canadians. Osteoarthritis affects articular joints such as knees and is marked by the loss of articular cartilage. Symptoms of OA include joint pain, stiffness, a reduced range of motion and a loss of use of the joint. Origins of OA have been associated with age, inappropriate mechanical stress, trauma, obesity and a genetic predisposition. Despite its broad impact and cost on public health, identifying the pathological onset of OA remains challenging. At present, experimental studies attempting to uncover curative therapeutics for OA remain unsuccessful. Patients living with OA are forced to deal with medical management strategies that focus on pain relief instead of solutions that stop or reverse OA-associated tissue degradation.
Occupational therapists (OTs) help people living with OA to maximize their ability to safely participate in daily activities. An OT may educate and coach clients on strategies to independently carry out their lives while minimizing OA's impact on their functional ability. Treatment goals often include pain management and energy conservation strategies, activity modification that incorporates joint protection, education on alternative forms of exercises that reduce the impact on articular surfaces, such as swimming, and splints that are used while at rest or to stabilize the joint during activity. A combination of therapeutic strategies is often used to improve the treatment outcomes and meet patient needs. Occupational therapists and clients collaborate to identify approaches that help clients achieve their goals.
Reference: Dziedzic, Krysia, and Alison Hammond. Rheumatology: Evidence-Based Practice for Physiotherapists and Occupational Therapists. Churchill Livingstone, 2010