Patients with OA are encouraged to exercise as a way of keeping joint cartilage lubricated and mobile. Consultation with a physical therapist is highly recommended, as it can ensure patient compliance and safety while exercising. Low-impact exercises to increase balance, flexibility, and range of motion are also recommended. These exercises may include walking, swimming or other water activities, yoga, and other stretching exercises, or isometric exercises (i.e., a program of exercises in which a muscle group is tensed against another muscle group or an immovable object so that the muscles may contract without shortening).
Physical therapy may also include massage, the application of moist hot packs, or soaks in a hot tub. Prescriptions may be written for protective devices. Instructions for their use would be given to patients by physical therapy staff.
Surgical treatment of OA may include the replacement of a damaged joint with an artificial part or appliance, surgical fusion of spinal bones, scraping or removal of damaged bone from the joint, or the removal of a piece of bone in order to realign the bone.
Support staff will be required to educate the patient on the correct use of any protective measure, the length of time it will be needed, and counsel on the correct way to bend, lift or move the affected joint. The consequences of not using protective measures should be outlined (i.e., exacerbation of symptoms, additional muscle strain, undue pain from noncompliance). Depending on the location of the affected joint, patients with OA may be advised to use neck braces or collars, crutches, canes, hip braces, knee supports, bed boards, or elevating chairs and toilet seats. Patients would also be advised to avoid unnecessary bending, stair climbing, or lifting of heavy objects.
Michele R. Webb, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,