Osteoarthritis is typically diagnosed by your doctor using an x-ray, but there are signs that may lead your physical therapist to suspect you have OA. Joint stiffness, difficulty moving, joint creaking or cracking, and pain that is relieved with rest are typical symptoms.

Typically, OA causes pain and stiffness in the joint. Common symptoms include:

• Stiffness in the joint, especially in the morning, which eases in less than 30 minutes

• Stiffness in the joint after sitting or lying down for long periods

• Pain during activity that is relieved by rest

• Cracking, creaking, crunching, or other types of joint noise

• Pain when you press on the joint

• Increased bone growth around the joint that you may be able to feel

Caution: Swelling and warmth around the joint is not usually seen with OA and may indicate a different condition or signs of an inflammation. Please consult with your doctor if you have swelling, redness, and warmth in the joint.

We can effectively treat OA. Depending on how severe the OA is, physical therapy may help you avoid surgery. Although the symptoms and progression of OA are different for each person, starting an individualized exercise program and addressing risk factors can help relieve your symptoms and slow the condition's advance. Here are a few ways your physical therapist can help:

• Your therapist will do a thorough examination to determine your symptoms and what activities are difficult for you. He or she will design an exercise program to address those activities and improve your movement.

• Your therapist may use manual (hands-on) therapy to improve movement of the affected joint.

• Your physical therapist may offer suggestions for adjusting your work area to lessen the strain on your joints.

• Your physical therapist can teach you an aerobic exercise program to improve your movement and overall health, and offer instructions for continuing the program at home.

• If you are overweight, your physical therapist can teach you an exercise program for safe weight loss, and recommend simple lifestyle changes that will help keep the weight off.

In cases of severe OA that are not helped by physical therapy alone, surgery, such as a knee or hip replacement, may be necessary. Your physical therapist will refer you to an orthopedic surgeon to discuss the possibility of surgery.

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