Posture, Breathing and Arthritis

by (Osteopath & Exercise Scientist)

Osteoarthritis (OA)

OA is a group of chronic, degenerative conditions that effect joints (also known as Degenerative Joint Disease and osteoarthrosis). Arthritis means – inflammation of the joint but OA is more degenerative than inflammatory.  OA is the most common form of arthritis.

What happens to the joints in OA?

With repeated stress the cartilage in the joints initially thickens, then eventually breaks down, softens and becomes thinner. Later the underlying bone undergoes changes and becomes worn from contact of bone on bone.  Micro-fractures and cysts can appear which weaken the bone.  To support the joint, new bone is laid down at the edges of the joint and bony spurs occur which restrict movement.  These bony spurs can painfully compress nerve roots.

Symptoms:

Initially this is painless but the end result after a period of time is pain, bony enlargement and restricted mobility.

Where does OA occur?

Common locations of OA are in the hand, spine, hip and knee. Reduced pain and mobility are usually noticed in the morning or after periods of immobility and may improve as a person gets moving.  Nerve pain can also occur if nerves are irritated by bony spurs.

Diagnosis:

Diagnosis of OA can be obtained by history and physical examination and X-rays may show OA as the degeneration effects the joint space and underlying bone. OA tends to occur more with increasing age.

Contributing factors to the development of OA

1. Poor posture is probably the most common factor.

2. Muscle imbalances.

3. Instability.

4. Prolonged immobilization (effecting circulation)

5. The presence of other pathology (e.g. diabetes mellitus) which may weaken the supporting tissues of the body.

How does poor posture contribute to OA?

The bones, joints and other tissues of the body are most efficient in a balanced posture as weight bearing load passes evenly through tissues.  A balanced posture contributes to a natural healthy tissue, tone and function.

Imbalanced posture together with the effects of gravity and the activities of daily life/sport, place increasing load on some structures more than others, resulting in increased stress to the overloaded tissues.

Treatment

If we think of OA as the result of imbalanced pressures – then a good deal of relief can potentially come by rebalancing the weight bearing and taking the load off the involved joints.   Despite damage to the joint, taking the stress off can significantly alleviate pain or prevent worsening.  Possible treatments options include:

  • Treatment of the underlying patterns of dysfunction setting up the imbalance load (e.g. massage, Osteopathy)
  • Postural advice (on normal posture or techniques relating to activities of daily living, sport, etc)
  • Stretching, gentle range (and quality) of motion exercises for tight areas; strengthening for weak areas; stabilizing exercise for areas where there is lack of control.
  • Dietary and nutritional support

Correct Breathing

The diaphragm attaches from the mid thoracic spine and last 6 ribs to the mid lumbar spine.  Its mobility is essential for healthy spine and organ function. Its correct functioning will exercise the spine and ribs on the in-breath and relax on the out-breath.  It rhythmical pumping helps with fluid flow, nutrition and drainage (to and from the trunk and limbs) and massages the organs above and below and thus can help clear the head and stimulate healthy organ function throughout the whole body.

The use of correct breathing mechanics in itself and or in combination with stretching can help significantly balance our bodies and equalize pressure on joints.

If you would like more information or could benefit from an assessment and/or treatment, please contact us to book a consultation.

by (Osteopath & Exercise Scientist) on 27th August 2013 |

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