First of all let's establish what osteoarthritis is. It's a process which is initiated when the wear and tear on an area of articular cartilage (that's the smooth material covering the surfaces of most of your mobile joints) exceeds the ability of the body to repair that wear and tear. The breakdown of the cartilage alters how forces are transmitted through the joint and results in inflammation and damage and remodelling of the bones around the joint. It is the inflammation and bony remodelling that can cause pain and restrict motion. We don't fully understand what initiates this process but below is a diagram from Arthritis Research UK showing the major known risk factors
So what can osteopathy do to help? Well, I can't change your gender, age or genetic factors, or indeed the history of what has happened to your joints, and losing weight is up to you; however I can work within the confines of these factors to help your body dissipate forces through the joint in the most even way possible, so the wear across the whole joint is even, working to reduce the chance of osteoarthritis. This is a natural part of what osteopaths do, looking at the body as a whole and working to reduce undue strain and restriction. For those who already have osteoarthritis, reducing and redistributing forces through the area can help to prevent further deterioration and may allow some symptom relief. For these patients I will also work to ensure that the joint remains as mobile as possible; reducing inappropriate muscle guarding. Maintaining joint movement is essential as movement and in particular compression and release of the articular cartilage stimulates the production and flow throughout the joint of synovial fluid , which helps to lubricate, provide nutrition and initiate repair.
Damian is the principal osteopath at Vauxhall Village Osteopathy and Oval Osteopathy