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Can Physiotherapy Help Arthritis?

By Christine Morrison- Physiotherapist

What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative joint condition as a result of the joint surfaces becoming damaged and thickened. The protective cartilage on the ends of the bones becomes thin and deteriorates.

The joint capsule, ligaments, muscles and underlying bone is also affected, thus the movement of the joint becomes painful.

Osteoarthritis is the most common lifestyle disease in people over 65 years of age in Canada. OA is more common than high blood pressure & diabetes.

It is estimated that 30% of people aged 50 & above report hip and/or knee pain. OA can affect any joint of the body where cartilage covers the ends of the bones, but most commonly affects the joints in the hands, fingers, knees, and hips.


Stages of knee Osteoarthritis (OA). Kellgren and Lawrence criteria for assessment stage of osteoarthritis. The classifications are based on osteophyte formation and joint space narrowing.

What Causes Osteoarthritis?

The number of people with OA increases with age, but age does not cause OA. The cause of OA is due to many factors. There are risk factors we cannot control; such as age (it is more frequent with increasing age), sex (it is more common in women), or genetics (there is an increased risk of a child developing OA if one or both parents have OA).

But fortunately there are some risk factors that we can influence and potentially change, such as:

  • Joint injury- preventative muscular training.
  • Joint overload from work and/or sport- too much joint load from high level sports, activities, and heavy physical labour.
  • Obesity- every extra kilogram increases joint load 3-5 times. A weight loss of as little as 5% can reduce pain and improve your function.
  • Physical inactivity- inactivity worsens cartilage, muscle, and bone quality. Neuromuscular exercise improves cartilage quality in people at risk of osteoarthritis. Aerobic exercise & strength training gives the largest reduction in pain.
  • Muscle weakness-  can lead to joint strain and altered alignment which accelerates joint injury

Can Physiotherapy Help?

Yes, physical activity is medicine. In the acute stage physiotherapy can help settle down the joint inflammation, pain, and stiffness. The best evidence-based treatment for managing osteoarthritis is by strengthening the surrounding joint musculature.

In a recent article in The Australian newspaper, it is said that “the single most important thing you can to do reduce knee pain is to strengthen the quadriceps muscles in the front of your thighs. ‘It will lead to a 30 to 40 percent improvement, which is far better than you would hope to get with pills and therapies.” (The Australian, What are the Best Methods to Reduce Knee Pain?)

At PhysioPlus we offer the GLA:D™ Canada exercise program for osteoarthritis of the hip and knee. This 6-week program offers targeted neuromuscular exercises which allows nourishment of the cartilage, strengthens the muscles and improves alignment. All this helps  overall function. Results of this program have proven that exercising twice a week has an even greater pain relieving effect than painkillers. The GLA:D™ Canada program is a nationwide evidence-based initiative supported by Bone & Joint Canada, The Arthritis Society, and The Physiotherapist’s Association of BC. For more information, visit our GLA:D™ Canada page here.

Our physiotherapists can also recommend other treatment options that can give symptomatic relief of osteoarthritis such as manual therapy, hydrotherapy, orthotics, bracing, modalities such as ultrasound and interferential and acupuncture.

For more information or to book an appointment, click the button to contact us!

Caleigh ( Athlete and student )

“After two sprained ankles within twenty-four hours of one another, intensive physiotherapy got me off crutches and to an overnight snowshoe camp and European soccer tour within weeks.”


Nell (Educator and (again, thanks to Ross) considerably more knowledgeable Cricket Spectator)

“I was referred to Ross by my doctor, originally, for treatment of shin splints. When Ross could see my progress was not as expected, he communicated with my doctor regarding the possibility of a tibia fracture – a subsequent CT scan confirmed it was. Thanks to Ross’s professional experience and keen attention to underlying symptoms, my injury was more accurately diagnosed and is now, with his physio support, healing well. Ross’ quiet sense of humour and steady encouragement have made my physio treatment experience very positive”.


Peter ( still strolling along. )

“Ross took the time to understand the impact heel pain had on my activities and analyze the mechanics and footwear that aggravated the pain. With therapy and the custom orthotics he prescribed and recommended footwear I was able to happily stroll through the villages and countryside of Italy this Summer.”

(still strolling along.)

Paul Gray ( active dad and running enthusiast )

“My experience at PhysioPlus was extremely positive. 3 days after tearing my ACL playing soccer I had my first visit. I walked in on crutches and was wearing an immobilizer knee brace for stability. Ross was able to help me regain confidence to bear weight on my injured leg and I was able to walk out with the crutches in one hand and the knee brace in the other.

Ross was able to confirm from his assessment of my knee that I had, in fact, ruptured my ACL which had not yet been confirmed, being prior to an appointment with the orthopaedic surgeon or an MRI.

Ross had me work through a program pre-surgery to regain as much mobility and stability I could without having the ACL intact. After the reconstructive surgery was completed we worked through a program to continue to increase mobility and strength. Having access to the exercise room complete with equipment was extremely helpful. Ross was able to explain and demonstrate how to effectively work through the exercise routines.

Within one year of my surgery I have returned to running and have started some hiking. I would highly recommend PhysioPlus to anyone requiring treatment. The atmosphere is calm and everyone is extremely friendly and caring.”

Paul Gray
Active Dad and Running Enthusiast

Lisa Wren (Age 55)

“After completing an extensive painting project, I ended up with a frozen right shoulder, which was extremely painful and debilitating. This is when my introduction to Physioplus occurred. My physiotherapist, Ross Baines, was instrumental in getting me back to good health. Ross used various interventional techniques to encourage movement in the shoulder joint, always providing me with ample information about each. He was always professional and communicated thoroughly with the rest of my medical team. I have every confidence that the care Ross provided expedited my return to normal activity. I would not hesitate to recommend Ross and the entire team at Physioplus!”

Lisa Wren

Bruce Cook – previous hard core triathlete

“Most highly recommended for physio and rehab. Ross is a knowledgable and caring practitioner, going above and beyond to help you. Easy going personality and very supportive. Ross is easy to talk to with incredible results. A+ from me.”

Bruce Cook
– previous hard core triathlete