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  • Writer's pictureArianne Gosselin

Osteopathy for Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a chronic joint disease that affects mainly the hips, knees, spine, fingers, and toes. The destruction of joint cartilage combined with inflammation is what eventually changes the shape of the joint, creating things like bone spurs and nodules. It is a disease of imbalance between the building up and the breaking down of cartilage and bone.

When destruction occurs in the cartilage, it leads to blockage and edema of soft tissues, disturbance of blood circulation, erosion of cartilage cells, and even an increase in bony density which makes the bone less efficient at absorbing impact (Ashkavand et al, 2013). These changes are what lead to the pain and joint stiffness that is commonly felt by individuals affected by OA.

While the main cause of the disease is still unknown, there are a few risk factors that have been associated with OA, such as age, gender, genetics, diet, joint injury/overuse, and obesity (Ashkavand et al, 2013). That being said, if genetics, poor diet and lifestyle, and obesity are at play, osteopathy can only do so much. If this were the case, the treatments would be geared towards draining the tissues and getting good blood flow to the area, as these functions have been impaired due to changes in the cartilage. This will provide relief to the individual but will not correct the root cause of the problem (genetics, diet, lifestyle).

On the other hand, if the destruction of cartilage is being caused by abnormal stress and strain placed on the joint, or a previous injury to the joint due to work or athletic activities, osteopathy can do more than just manage symptoms. For example, if tight muscles have created an asymmetry at the pelvis, such as one hip that’s higher than the other, it leads to an abnormal line of force traveling down to the knee. As a result, a lot of strain will be placed on one side of the knee as opposed to the other, creating an imbalance in load distribution with every step that’s taken. The side that is receiving the majority of the load will wear down a lot quicker, creating the symptoms that we see in OA.

And what if it’s caused by an injury? Osteopathy can certainly help with that too. By creating symmetry and motion in the body and by clearing any obstructions to the proper blood supply, nerve supply, venous drainage, and lymphatic drainage, we can help the body heal itself. As the injury heals and the joint returns to its normal structure and function, the likelihood of joint erosion is reduced.

All in all, osteopathy can not re-model a bone or joint that has changed in shape due to OA or any other disease. However, it can help prevent further cartilage destruction (depending on the cause) and can help reduce pain and stiffness in the affected joint. Maybe it’s time you gave osteopathy a try!


Ashkavand, Z., Malekinejad, H., & Vishwanath, B. S. (2013). The pathophysiology of osteoarthritis. Journal of Pharmacy Research, 7(1), 132–138. doi: 10.1016/j.jopr.2013.01.008

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