Osteoarthritis - What is it? How does it develop?

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis which is a chronic condition that often develops with age as a result of damaged joints. It is usually caused by the wear and tear of joints and lack of physical activity that’s why it may sometimes be referred to as “wear and tear arthritis”.

When cartilage (which is the protective rubbery tissue layer that covers the ends of the joints and acts as a shock absorber) is broken or damaged, the joints rub together which in turn causes pain, stiffness, and other symptoms. This can occur in any joint in the body like hips, knees, wrist, spine, or even fingers. Don’t you worry – Physiotherapists at Restore Life Waterloo can help you manage and treat your osteoarthritis symptoms with their training and experience.

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How does a healthy knee joint look like?

To provide an explanatory example, let’s talk about the largest joint of our body and see how a healthy knee joint looks like. The knee joint basically gets us moving every day as it allows the knee to extend and bend back and forth. As you can see in the left image, the knee joint is made up of cartilage, bone, fibrous articular capsule, synovial articular capsule, and ligament.

Osteoarthritis is usually defined by the loss of articular cartilage. Fundamentally, cartilage doesn’t contain any nerves however, a loss of cartilage creates friction between the bones that adds to the pain arising due to osteoarthritis. The chance of developing osteoarthritis increases with age however, a lot of recent studies show that lack of physical activity, obesity, and sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of osteoarthritis around weight-bearing joints like hip, knee, and spine.


Osteoarthritis - How does a healthy knee joint look like? A picture explaining the knee joints, adjoining muscles and tendons.

Some people are more prone to developing osteoarthritis than others. People with sitting jobs may affect their elbows or wrists and people with heavy lifting jobs can develop osteoarthritis around the hip and knee. Therefore, the overuse of joints, lack of physical activity, and age are the reasons cartilage breakdown or cartilage damage happens leading to stiffness, pain, inflammation, and restricted joint movement.

How do you know if you have osteoarthritis?

The most common symptom of osteoarthritis is pain around the joints. To understand the condition better, you should observe the following symptoms and connect with your physiotherapist or doctor for an early ergonomic assessment and diagnosis coupled with an effective physiotherapy treatment plan.

According to the Arthritis Society, arthritis affects over 6 million Canadians. Over 20% of the population age 15 and older are having difficulties with activities of daily living. Arthritis causes pain, inflammation, and it can affect one or multiple joints at once.

People who suffer from osteoarthritis are observed reporting soreness and stiffness around joints, decreased range of motion, and pain or swelling around the joint. Reach out to us if you are looking for physiotherapy assessment and treatment for osteoarthritis!

What is the difference between osteoarthritis and arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis are just different types of arthritis that share similar characteristics but are different due to the cause behind the joint symptoms. Osteoarthritis is developed because of mechanical and ergonomic wear and tear whereas rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that may affect multiple joints in the body.

The speed of onset in rheumatoid arthritis is comparatively faster or rapid in nature, ranging from over weeks to months. On the other hand, osteoarthritis is slower and its symptoms can sometimes come and go.

What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis?

It is reckoned that all forms of arthritis cause a bit of pain around the joints. Soreness, stiffness, tenderness, and pain are supposed to be the most common symptoms reported by patients suffering from osteoarthritis. A feeling of discomfort ad lack of motion is also identified to be a prominent symptoms of osteoarthritis.

The stiffness in the joint is most likely to be experienced in the morning or after long hours of a break but fortunately, physiotherapy exercises can act as a driving force to get you out of that pain. Our physiotherapists at Restore Life will perform an in-depth ergonomic assessment of all the joints in the body followed by a customized, effective, and productive physiotherapy treatment plan to reduce your symptoms and give back improved joint movement.


The feeling of instability or looseness or an urge of giving away are all red flags to be considered for an assessment. Don’t suffer in pain, call us today.

What are the treatment options for osteoarthritis?

Treatment of osteoarthritis aims at reducing the key symptoms and improving joint function with adequate education, proper exercises, and a weight-reduction plan if required. Physiotherapy and exercises are considered to be the best relief options when it comes to the treatment of osteoarthritis, according to studies.


All physiotherapists at Restore Life Physiotherapy and Wellness Waterloo are proactive and dedicated to patient health. Our committed team of physiotherapists ensures that patient health goals and needs are met, with a proper detailed assessment, and by creating an individual physiotherapy treatment program that suits them the best.


Each physiotherapist of our team understands the impact of joint functions can have on your daily life. As a result, we at Restore Life Physiotherapy Waterloo ensure to provide all our services to help our patients to tackle their key symptoms to restore and regain their strength.


As mentioned earlier, education, exercise and weight control are considered to be the first line of treatment. Physiotherapists can help you at the second line of treatment if the first line of treatment doesn’t provide enough relief. It should be complemented with pain relief meds, TENS, manual therapy, orthoses, shoe insoles, and aids. Only for those, with extreme symptoms, surgery is suggested.

How can Restore Life Physiotherapy and Wellness Waterloo can help you?

Osteoarthritis can obstruct you from accomplishing your daily activities and we understand that it’s frustrating. Fortunately, physiotherapy can help you manage osteoarthritis pain. Physiotherapy can even save you from having surgery.


At Restore Life Physiotherapy and Wellness Waterloo, our team of physiotherapists is experienced and trained to assess and treat osteoarthritis. One of our experienced physiotherapists would perform a thorough assessment of your condition, and range of motion, and discuss the symptoms you are suffering from. Then, physiotherapists would create a personalized treatment plan to address your specific condition. Your physiotherapist will educate you about everything you can do to manage the condition including exercises, losing weight, preventing injuries and falls, etc. A home exercise plan would also be given to you to follow and more sessions for hands-on physiotherapy, manual therapy, shockwave therapy, massage therapy, chiropractic care, etc.


Your treatment plan will aim to alleviate pain, improve range of motion, and build strength so you can get back to your normal life again. If you are in Waterloo and Kitchener Region, don’t hesitate to visit our Waterloo clinic, we are happy to answer any specific questions you have!

What are some measures that one can take to prevent osteoarthritis?

Although it’s not entirely feasible to prevent osteoarthritis, you could try to minimize your chances of developing the condition by maintaining a healthy lifestyle and preventing injuries.

  • Maintaining Healthy Weight: To begin with, it is crucial for everyone to maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of various diseases and complications. The additional weight puts undue pressure on the lower body, including the hips, knees, ankles, and feet. If you are overweight, talk to your doctor or physiotherapist about safe exercises that you can perform to accomplish your goal of reaching and maintaining a healthy weight. Feel free to contact our team with a wealth of experience on which exercises can benefit you to lose weight. 
  • Control Sugar: High blood sugar levels put you at an increased risk of getting osteoarthritis. If you already have diabetes, keep close monitoring of your sugar levels and get the medicine and care you need. Staying active after eating, even for 20 minutes would help you to control sugar. To avoid excessive sugar levels, it is important to adhere to the instructions and advice provided by your healthcare provider. 
  • Stay Active: Regular exercise can be effective in preventing joint problems by keeping them flexible and reducing stiffness. It also strengthens the muscles, which is crucial in managing arthritis. Strive to engage in at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days. Consult with your healthcare provider or reach out to our physiotherapists in Waterloo clinic to determine what types of exercise are safe for you.
  • Prevent Injuries or Falls: Sustaining joint injuries can increase the likelihood of developing osteoarthritis. When initiating an exercise routine, it is recommended to start slowly and gradually increase intensity. Before each workout, take 5 to 10 minutes to warm up with gentle movements and stretches to prevent injury to muscles, joints, ligaments, and tendons. Varying the types of exercises and activities performed each day can help distribute stress across different joints and prevent overuse of the same ones. Be mindful of daily activities that may exert excessive pressure on joints. For example, carrying heavy bags of groceries close to your body in the crook of your arm can be less taxing on the joints than holding them with your hands. When using exercise equipment or protective gear, always follow the instructions provided. Ensure that the gear fits properly and is comfortable to use.

What food should you avoid in osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a non-inflammatory health condition, but research shows that dietary interventions like reducing intake of specific foods and beverages are reported to decrease the severity of pain and stiffness in osteoarthritis.


Foods that are processed and have a high value of added sugars and salt are the most to be avoided like red meat, processed meats, ice creams, candy, soda, canned foods with salt, some cheeses, etc. Chronic alcohol consumption is also associated with a high risk of osteoarthritis.