Written by Katharine Ng – Physiotherapist

What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a very common disease and is the most common cause of mobility issues in the older population. 

It is a disease that affects the whole joint, but mostly the articular cartilage (cartilage that covers the ends of the bones). This articular cartilage becomes thin and fragile over time, which can be due to:

  1. Healthy cartilage being exposed to heavy loads over a long period of time. For example: heavy labour or load over many years 


  2. Unhealthy cartilage that for some reason cannot handle normal loads. 


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In a normal healthy joint there is a balance between regeneration and degeneration of cartilage. OA occurs when there is more degeneration (breakdown) than regeneration of cartilage. This can cause the cartilage to thin out, crack or disappear. 

Contrary to common belief, OA should not be described as wear and tear. This statement is incorrect because cartilage needs moderate load through physical activity or exercise to regenerate itself, remain nourished and healthy. 

Presentation/ Signs and symptoms 

Osteoarthritis often affects one joint and symptoms progress slowly. Below are some common symptoms you may experience:

  • Pain with weight bearing. E.g. Prolonged walking, going up or down stairs
  • Stiffness, particularly in the morning, or standing up from chair
  • Reduced range of motion (e.g. to bend or straighten the knee) 

Recommended physical activity guidelines

The first line treatment for osteoarthritis should consist of education about OA, exercise and weight control, if applicable. This should be offered regardless of age, disease severity, functional status or pain levels. Exercise can help to relieve pain and improve joint range of motion and function for activities of daily living. Other passive treatments such as massage and acupuncture can also be useful to manage pain. A dietitian can also provide useful advice on weight management. 

When function improves, the next step is to get more active. Being physically active can help maintain weight loss and improve overall health. The usual treatment for osteoarthritis is outlined below.

How much exercise?

  • Everyone should aim to be physically active for 30 mins a day. This can be broken up into 10 or 15 minute bouts with rests between. E.g. Walking, swimming, cycling
  • At least 2-3x per week these bouts should consist of exercise at moderate intensity. (e.g. strengthening using body weight as resistence or exercise bands or dumbells) 
  • This exercise should be done in addition to your everyday activity but it is advised to seek a health professional for guidance on what exercise is appropriate for you.
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Exercises to manage Osteoarthritis

Strong muscles help to stabilise your joints. In particular, neuromuscular exercise helps to improve joint control by learning to use the right muscles at the right time. This will help to reduce pain, improve confidence, reduce falls risk and ultimately overall function. 

Please seek advice from a physiotherapist for a tailored exercise program based on your abilities. 

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There is extensive evidence that supports exercise for the management of OA and many other chronic health conditions. 

In a study of people who participated in a structured twice weekly strengthening program over a period of 6 weeks the following outcomes were found:

  • Increased joint confidence 
  • Reduced pain
  • Improved quality of life
  • Less need for taking pain medications  
  • Less sick days from work
  • Less likely to feel need for surgery
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Kobodi Wellness Studio Physiotherapist Balwyn North Katharine Ng

Written by Physiotherapist Katharine Ng


B.Physio, APAM

Katharine has over 10 years experience working as a physiotherapist in both private practice and hospital settings. She is passionate about advocating for her clients, particularly to assist in achieving their physical health goals. She incorporates a combination of both clinical exercise and hands on/manual therapy treatment techniques to manage her clients. 
She is a registered Physiotherapist under the Australian Health Practitioners Regulations Agency (AHPRA) as well as a member of the Australian Physiotherapy Association. Katharine is a qualified Clinical Pilates Instructor and has experience managing a wide range of musculoskeletal and orthopaedic conditions including pre and post-surgical rehabilitation, sports related injuries and oncology rehabilitation. Katharine has completed postgraduate qualifications in Oncology Rehabilitation and is currently undertaking further studies to become a Lymphoedema Practitioner. 
Outside of her clinical work, Katharine enjoys dancing (Ballet) which is how her passion for movement began. She also enjoys being outdoors and exploring new hiking locations in Victoria. 
Katharine can provide the following services: 
  • Management of musculoskeletal conditions 
  • GLAD certified physiotherapist for management of osteoarthritis
  • Oncology rehabilitation 
  • Treatment of dance related injuries including pre-pointe assessments
She is fluent in English and Cantonese Chinese. 
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