Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that can affect the tissues of all the joints. It is the most common form of arthritis and affects more than 3.9 million Canadians.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is known as “wear and tear” arthritis and is generally associated with aging. We now know that it is a disease of the entire joint, including bone, cartilage, ligaments, fat and the tissues lining the joint (the synovium). Osteoarthritis can affect the cartilage and change bone shape, causing inflammation which can result in pain, stiffness, and loss of mobility.

OA can affect any joint, but typically hands, knees, hips, neck, and lower back. Symptoms typically appear in individuals over age 50 but can affect much younger people, too, especially those with a history of joint injury. OA develops slowly over time, but after an injury to the joint, it can develop much more rapidly within just a few years. It is common, but in many, it never develops.

There is no cure for OA, but there are ways to manage and minimize pain, which allow the sufferer to remain mobile and maintain a good quality of life.

Factors that may contribute to the development of OA include age, injury to the joint, overuse due to occupation or sport, obesity, musculoskeletal abnormalities, muscle weakness due to injury or disease, or gender, as women are more likely to develop OA.

Pain, reduced mobility, side effects from medications, and other factors associated with osteoarthritis can lead to health complications not caused by the disease.

Obviously, when you’re hurting, you tend to become less active, leading to weight gain and aggravating sore knees. Through inactivity, muscle weakness is affected, which can cause instability in the knee joint and even falls. Some studies have shown a 30% increase in such falls, as it can affect balance, especially in those with OA in the hips or knees.

There is no cure for OA. However, symptoms can be managed with medication, weight control, range of motion and muscle strengthening exercises. It is best to talk to your doctor about medication, physiotherapy, and proper foot care from a Canadian Certified Pedorthist (C. Ped (C)).

How can a Pedorthist help with Knee Osteoarthritis?

The feet are our base of support. Any abnormalities, muscular or skeletal, can have an impact on structures further up the body. Each foot has up to 26 bones, 30 joints, and over 100 muscles, ligaments and tendons. Needless to say, a complicated piece of machinery.

The biomechanics (how the feet move) of the feet have a major affect on the knees, in that any abnormalities will cause unnatural stresses on the knee joint. A person who has collapsed arches can have issues on the inside and/or outside of the knee. In this case, the knee joint is compressed on the outside, which can cause cartilage damage. At the same time, the inside of the knee is stretched, which can cause injury to the structures on the inside of the knee joint. For people with very high arches, the opposite problems may occur compression on the inside on the knee and stretching on the outside of the knee.

These subtle stresses are cumulative and can cause osteoarthritis over the years. This is especially true because they are major weight-bearing joints like the hips, which can also be affected by improper foot mechanics.

Remember, the best place to start is by examining your shoes. Is it right for your foot type and foot type? What features do I look for in a shoe? Would custom foot orthotics help? A Canadian Certified Pedorthist can help spot these issues to lessen the stresses on the knees and hips using proper support and shoes.

Written by Jaimie McVean, C. Ped (C)