Many people confuse osteoarthritis with osteoporosis.

While both conditions can be painful, they are very different, and both can be helped with physiotherapy in Coffs Harbour.

Let’s start with the difference between them.

Osteoarthritis is a joint and cartilage problem, whereas osteoporosis is a bone density/strength problem.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis.

It can also be referred to as joint deterioration, joint degeneration, joint narrowing and bone-on-bone diminishment.

In the spine, it can include degenerative disc disease, bulging discs, annular tearing, facet joint arthritis or arthrosis, degenerative spondylolisthesis or vertebral slipping, spinal canal or foraminal narrowing or spinal stenosis.

Osteoporosis is most often confused with osteoarthritis because people can often present with both symptoms at once.

While osteoarthritis is degeneration of a joint, osteoporosis is the loss of bone mass, which increases the risk of fractures.

The age individuals develop osteoarthritis can vary significantly due to lifestyle factors, genetics, trauma.

Teenagers often present with patella-femoral knee pain where the cartilage on the under-surface of the patella [knee cap] is degenerating.

This is early osteoarthiritis and is most often due to mal-alignment of the hips or flat feet, but can be addressed with corrective exercises.

Most commonly however osteoarthritis impacts people from middle age and upwards.

Bone mass peaks around 35 and mostly remains stable until women hit menopause.

Depending on a variety of factors [such as diet during life, level of physical activity and genetics to name but a few], it is from this time that bone density or ‘strength’ can deteriorate more rapidly, resulting in osteoporosis.

Around 80years of age, both men and women tend to lose bone density more rapidly again.

Interesting facts

  • Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in Australia with an estimated 2.2 million (9.3%) Australians having the condition
  • Although it affects people of all ages, it’s detected higher in people over 45
  • Osteoporosis is not as prevalent in society as it generally affects more of the older community but still accounts for over 924,000 cases and 3.8 per cent of the population 
  • 30 per cent of people aged 65 or older report some joint symptoms
  • $1.6 billion spent on treating osteoarthritis each year
  • Osteoarthritis is also more common among females than males, affecting 10 per cent of females compared with 6.1 per cent of males (after adjusting for age)
  • Osteoarthritis is the fourth most common reason people visit the GP
  • A person can have osteoporosis and osteoarthritis at the same time. Both diseases may cause pain and limit mobility, but the cause of this pain and the way it is treated are quite different

How a physio will help with treatment

  1. At Coffs Physiotherapy & Backcare our physiotherapists will take a thorough history to assist with understanding and diagnosing the onset, type, and nature of your problem.
  2. We make an assessment based on any previous injuries, medical conditions, medications you’re on, and what lifestyle daily activities and exercise you do which support or hinder your issues.
  3. We assess your function, including movement, posture, joint range of motion, muscle tone, strength, balance and flexibility to assist in developing the best strategy to implement.
  4. We prescribe appropriate exercises tailored for you to build strength to support joints and muscles. Some people may also benefit with short term manual therapy sessions to assist with their pain and optimise function, whilst also instructed in exercises to take home for longer-term management.
  5. Some prefer group classes rather than individual sessions and we can assist you with these. Our “GLA:D” classes for osteoarthritis of the HIP/KNEE is world-renowned in its effectiveness [see below]
  6. A physio will also help make the necessary referrals and advocate for the client depending on their needs, and level of function.

GLA:D = Good Living with Arthritis: Denmark

This is an evidence-based education and exercise program developed by researchers in Denmark for people with hip or knee osteoarthritis symptoms. It has been proven to

  • Symptom progression reduced by 32% less pain
  • Decreased use of joint pain killers
  • High levels of satisfaction with increased level of physical activity at 12 months after the program
  • Less sick leave

GLA:D uses education and exercises to help with daily activities.

Our GLA:D trained physiotherapist Sean, will train you in how to strengthen your body, whilst learning how to move correctly and manage symptoms to improve pain.

Ring our rooms for more information, or to make a booking to attend our small classes.

Treatment for osteoporosis includes:

  • Sufficient calcium and vitamin D and a balanced diet
  • Weight-bearing exercises for increased bone strength
  • Resistance exercises to improve muscle strength
  • Balance exercises to prevent falls
  • Medication where needed

For the elderly, focus needs to be on maintaining or building muscle bulk and strength.

It needs to be a combination of weight-bearing exercises such as walking, jogging, dancing, along with resistance exercises using weights and bands.

Balance is a key area to work on to minimise the risk of falls.

Our expert physiotherapists in Newcastle will guide you through the most appropriate and safe management of your specific issues, with the right amount of intensity and frequency exercise program, whether it be for osteoporosis or osteoarthritis.

Call us today to start a program in our onsite gym or have a program tailored for you to take home.