As part of the osteoarthritic process, cartilage on the ends of the bones will degrade, thin and sometimes disappear. Osteoarthritis has long been thought of as a “wear and tear” disease in which activity wears down the cartilage over time. However, this notion is not correct as we know that the cartilage needs moderate load through physical activity to regenerate itself. It has no nerves or blood supply so it relies on moving and taking weight through the joint to gain its nourishment. With this loading and unloading of the joint the cartilage uses a sponge mechanism to push fluid out and suck fluid in to obtain its nutrients.
Neuromuscular exercise is very important for knee osteoarthritis. The loading with the exercise helps the articular cartilage become better nourished and lubricated. It also helps improve joint stability and overall function. The GLA:D Canada program focuses on neuromuscular exercise as well as patient education. The targeted exercises involve practicing doing things you do everyday like getting down on the floor and up again, rising from a chair, walking etc. with good movement quality and loading the joint the best possible way. This is what makes the program unique; the activities are applicable to your everyday life.
Symptoms can be managed with such methods as medications, ice/heat, and other passive treatments like acupuncture, joint mobilization, or TENS. Orthotics and walking aids can help improve the load bearing conditions for the knee. Ultimately, the health of the cartilage requires the loading and unloading through neuromuscular exercise to maintain or improve its integrity.