Osteoarthritis (OA) is a long-term chronic disease characterised by the deterioration of cartilage in joints which results in bones rubbing together and creating stiffness, pain and impaired movement. The disease most commonly affects the joints in the knees, hands, feet and spine and is relatively common in shoulder and hip joints. While related to ageing, OA is also associated with obesity, lack of exercise, genetic predisposition, occupational/sports injury and gender. Research indicates that significant numbers of people with OA are living with other chronic conditions.
Osteoarthritis is one of the ten most disabling diseases in developed countries and affects 18% of women and 10% of men over 60 years.
The prevalence of OA is increasing due to population ageing and an increase in related factors such as obesity. According to the CSO, by 2051 one-third (1.8 million) of the Irish population will be aged 60 years and over; up from one-fifth (866,000) in 2016. This represents a significant societal and personal challenge.
While frequently described as a ‘wear and tear’ arthritis, this is an over-simplification of the underlying pathology. It also frames OA as an inevitable feature of life and of ageing, over which people have little control.
This awareness campaign, therefore, looks to change the conversation around osteoarthritis in Ireland, by encouraging people living with the condition to take a proactive approach to the management of their OA.
For three decades, viola player Ruth Mann entertained audiences in Ireland and around the world as a member of the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, the BBC Northern Ireland Orchestra and the Ulster Orchestra. Being a professional musician was a career, but it was a lot more than that; playing music was her great love.
However, during the last 10 years of her playing life, Ruth experienced the devastating effects of osteoarthritis (OA) in her neck and hips. Her neck would seize up, she would ‘feel sick with the pain’, until finally she just couldn’t move her neck at all. The arthritis in her hips eventually got so bad that she had to use a wheelchair to get round. After numerous x-rays, tests and visits to doctors and surgeons, Ruth had to retire. ‘A career you really love – and a life – just gone. That wasn’t in the script,’ she says. She was 53.
After retiring, Ruth had both hips replaced and slowly started to build a new life. The Living Well with Arthritis self-management course was a game-changer. She took up new hobbies and had more time for old passions: yoga, painting, birdwatching, walking and gardening. Looking back, Ruth says, ‘Life started anew. I learned I could do other things. There’s still a lot to learn though.’
Andy Dunne, clinical exercise specialist, looks at the benefits of physical activity and exercise for people with osteoarthritis. He offers advice on how to get started with physical activity and how to stay motivated. He also discusses balancing pain and exercise. Andy Dunne is a chartered physiotherapist and owner of Personal Health, a lifestyle healthcare company in Dublin.
This video includes three short demonstrations of physical activity exercises:
Exercise 1: Sit to stand (basic)
Exercise 2: Kneel to stand (moderate)
Exercise 3: Hip 90/90 (advanced)
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