Acupuncture at Active Physiotherapy and Wellness Centre Calgary

What is it?

Acupuncture in Calgary

At Active Physiotherapy, acupuncture is used to promote healing naturally, to decrease or alleviate pain and to improve function at the affected areas of the body. It is a safe and effective therapeutic method to use as an alternative to medications, some surgeries and as an adjunct to physiotherapy. Very fine needles are inserted through the skin and tissues at specific points on the body which cause a mild amount of discomfort.

Here at Active Physiotherapy in Calgary, acupuncture can be classified into two categories, namely classical and anatomical. Classical acupuncture originated in China as one component of Traditional Chinese Medicine to assist in diagnosing and treating pain and disease. The goal behind acupuncture is to balance energy and blood in the body to promote good health and function.

Anatomical acupuncture in Calgary arose due to the interest from Western health practitioners and scientists who recognized the centuries of success achieved with classical acupuncture. The knowledge of acupuncture points is used in combination with anatomy, physiology and pathophysiology by physiotherapists and doctors to effectively treat a wide variety of injuries and conditions.

Thorough assessments are performed prior to treatment to determine a diagnosis in order for a qualified practitioner, such as physiotherapists and doctors, to choose appropriate acupuncture points to treat with.

How does acupuncture work at Active Physiotherapy in Calgary?

Treatment with Acupuncture in CalgaryThe insertion of acupuncture needles in the body at specific acupuncture points causes the release of the body’s own pain relieving chemicals known as endorphins. The end results of pain relief, general relaxation and biochemical restoration of the body’s own internal regulation system are achieved as endorphins block the passage of pain messages to the brain. An overall improvement in energy, physical and emotional well-being, biochemical balance and reduction in inflammation occur after acupuncture as the body’s natural healing abilities are stimulated.

What does acupuncture at Active Physiotherapy treat?

A variety of acute and chronic injuries and conditions have been treated effectively with acupuncture in Calgary. The benefit of acupuncture has been recognized by the World Health Organization for the following:

  • Neurological and muscular disorders: headaches, neck and back pain, neuralgia, frozen shoulder, tennis elbow, tendonitis, sciatica, arthritis
  • Respiratory disorders: sinusitis, bronchitis, asthma
  • Digestive disorders: gastritis, hyperacidity, constipation, diarrhea, spastic bowel
  • Urinary, menstrual and reproductive disorders
  • Addiction, insomnia

What are the risks and/or side effects of acupuncture?

When qualified and certified practitioners perform acupuncture in Calgary there are almost no adverse effects or complications associated with it. Many patients describe it as relaxing and mildly uncomfortable. Individuals with pacemakers considering acupuncture need approval from their cardiologists. Practitioners use specific precautions and contraindications with pregnant women.

At Active Physiotherapy in Calgary, we use only sterile, disposable needles in the application of acupuncture.

Does it hurt?  (What will I feel?)

Individuals experience different sensations during the course of acupuncture in Calgary. There may be a mild sensation as the very fine stainless steel needle passes through the surface of the skin. Once the needle is in place a warming or flushing sensation is common.

How many treatments will I need?

The number of treatments do vary with each individual due to numerous factors, however a general rule of thumb exists for acute versus chronic and/or complex disorders. One to a few sessions can be sufficient with acute problems. Chronic and complex conditions may require 1-2 sessions per week over several weeks wherein treatment frequency is decreased as improvements occur.

How long does an acupuncture treatment take?

At Active Physiotherapy in Calgary, acupuncture sessions are 15-20 minutes long but may be combined with other physiotherapy methods making the overall treatment time longer.

If you want physiotherapy services visit Active Physiotherapy in Calgary, our goal is to have you enjoying all your favourite activities by promoting an efficient return to sport, recreation and your everyday life. Our professional and licensed physiotherapists use a synergistic approach in combining current evidence based knowledge, continued education and years of successful experience to have you feeling your best.

Our Location:

Active Physiotherapy & Wellness Centre

909 1 Ave NE

Calgary, AB T2E 2L3 Canada‎

Tel: +1 403-984-9094 (Map)



Physiotherapy in Calgary for Injury Care

One of the greatest advances in surgery during the twentieth century has been in understanding how to reduce the risk of infection during and after surgery. Any surgical procedure, no matter how small, carries the risk of infection. Simple procedures, such as placing a needle into a joint to remove fluid or inject medications, have a very low risk. More complex operations that require larger incisions and leave the skin open for longer have a higher risk. Operations done to insert something into the body, such as metal plates or artificial joints, must be done carefully to ensure that the foreign material that is left in the body does not carry bacteria with it. Preventing infection is one of the most important parts of any operation. All members of the health care team take preventing infection very seriously.

Infection prevention begins before surgery. Your doctor will make sure that no infections exist that may spread and cause problems with your surgery. If you have a skin infection, a bladder infection, or some other type of infection, your surgery may be postponed until the infection is treated and under control.

The morning before surgery, you may be asked to shower with antibacterial soap to reduce the number of bacteria on the skin. Before surgery begins, the skin around the incision site will be cleansed and prepped with a disinfectant, such as iodine. Before surgery, you may be given a dose of antibiotics. This is not true for all types of surgeries. Operations that have a low risk of infection usually do not require antibiotics as a precaution. Many orthopedic operations do require antibiotics, especially those operations where something artificial is left in the body.

During surgery, great care is taken to ensure that the entire operation is done under sterile conditions. Surgery is performed in a sterile room that is designed to prevent the spread of infection. All the items needed for surgery are sterilized.

Your wound dressing will also be applied under sterile conditions before you leave the operating room. The wound dressing is an important barrier against infection until the incision seals itself. This usually occurs in the first few days. If an incision is still seeping any type of drainage, this can be an avenue for germs to enter the wound. The dressing will be kept in place until all drainage stops and the incision seals itself.

After surgery, you may continue on antibiotics for 24 to 72 hours. This is to help reduce the chance of infection.

While you are in the hospital or surgery center, your health care team will make sure your bandage stays dry and clean. A bandage that has soaked through can create an entryway for germs to enter the wound. Alert your nurse if this occurs. Before leaving the hospital or surgery center, you will be taught how to take care of your incision. The same instructions apply if you see extra drainage after your return home. Change the dressing, and call to let your nurse know.

Notice that the health care team always washes their hands before changing the bandage. You should do the same. If you develop an infection anywhere else in your body after surgery, let your doctor know. Some infections can spread and cause problems with the surgery.

Follow these guidelines:

  • Wash your hands before changing your bandage.
  • Change your bandage as instructed.
  • Don’t get the incision wet unless your doctor tells you to.
  • Don’t put any medication on the incision unless your doctor tells you to.
  • Don’t scratch or pick at the incision.
  • Wash your hands again after changing your bandage.

If you develop any of the following warning signs of infection, contact your doctor:

  • fever
  • increased redness around the incision
  • increased swelling around the incision
  • drainage from the wound for more than five days after surgery
  • drainage from the wound that is cloudy, yellow, or foul smelling
  • pain that increases and becomes constant.

If you want physiotherapy services visit Active Physiotherapy in Calgary, our goal is to have you enjoying all your favourite activities by promoting an efficient return to sport, recreation and your everyday life. Our professional and licensed physiotherapists use a synergistic approach in combining current evidence based knowledge, continued education and years of successful experience to have you feeling your best.

Our Location:

Active Physiotherapy & Wellness Centre

909 1 Ave NE

Calgary, AB T2E 2L3 Canada‎

Tel: +1 403-984-9094 (Map)


Pain in the Neck? Visit Active Physiotherapy and Wellness Centre

Chronic neck pain is something that can affect your work and personal life. If you have been suffering with neck pain for greater than 3 months then you would be categorized as having “chronic” neck pain. You don’t need to suffer anymore!

Neck pain can be caused by several different things including muscle spasms, joint restrictions in your neck or upper back, weakness in your neck or shoulder blade muscles, a disc herniation, or arthritis in your neck. Neck pain can also be associated with your posture or work station.

If you are experiencing any of the above issues then you should contact a physical therapist (PT). They will be able to evaluate you by taking you through a series of tests and measures along with functional tests to determine why you are suffering. An evaluation will assess your neck range of motion, your neck, arm, and upper back strength, as well as the mobility of your joints of the neck, upper back, and shoulders. Other functional tests that might be screened are your posture when you are sitting or working at your computer, how your body moves when you reach overhead and when you lift something off the floor. These tests will help the PT determine why you are having your neck pain.

Your PT will then develop an individualized exercise plan to address your areas of weakness and joint restriction. These exercises will help you achieve proper posture (e.g. getting your ear in line with your shoulder and your shoulder in line with your hip) in order to avoid forward head position and rounding of your upper back. The PT will also help to educate you on proper work station set up. Ideally, your wrists are below the elbow, the computer screen is in front of you, feet are flat on the floor and knees are below the hips.

In addition to an exercise routine and education on proper body mechanics, your PT will perform manual therapy on you as well. Manual therapy is when the PT stretches your muscles and assists your joints to move. Research has shown that if your upper back is moving well, this will decrease the strain to the neck muscles and joints, decreasing your neck pain and improving your quality of life. The combination of both exercise and manual therapy can help to reduce your neck pain symptoms, reduce your sick leave from work, reduce the need for pain medication and improve your ability to function at home and at work!


How long have you been suffering with neck pain? What position seems to really cause you the most discomfort?

If you want physiotherapy services visit Active Physiotherapy in Calgary, our goal is to have you enjoying all your favourite activities by promoting an efficient return to sport, recreation and your everyday life. Our professional and licensed physiotherapists use a synergistic approach in combining current evidence based knowledge, continued education and years of successful experience to have you feeling your best.

Our Location:

Active Physiotherapy & Wellness Centre

909 1 Ave NE

Calgary, AB T2E 2L3 Canada‎

Tel: +1 403-984-9094 (Map)


Straighten Up!: Three Tips for Better Posture While Sitting

Good posture plays an important role in preventing stress on your back, maintaining muscle flexibility, and avoiding future aches and pains. Correct posture is sitting or standing up tall so your head is in line with your trunk. Poor posture is sitting or standing with a slouch and rounded shoulders, thereby positioning your neck and head forward compared to your trunk.

Standing Postures

Some individuals have poor posture due to spinal conditions like scoliosis, kyphosis and osteoporosis (which can be addressed by your physician or physical therapist). However, the majority of us have poor posture due to weak or tight muscles and moving incorrectly. The good news is that exercise and body awareness CAN help!

People with chronic low back pain often have slouched posture due to weak and/or tight back muscles. A slouched posture can cause the low back muscles to be active for longer than normal, contributing to pain. Sitting has been shown to increase your spinal disc pressure by 145%, and sitting with poor (slouched) posture can increase that pressure up to 180%, contributing to low back pain.(p459)1

Poor posture can cause abnormal stress on your spine and can strain the muscles that help stabilize the head. (p459)1 Eighty-five percent of people with temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain, or jaw pain, have forward head posture. (p258)1 This position of your neck may contribute to strain on the supporting muscles, and in some cases, headaches. (p258)1

Three tips to help keep your seated posture healthy:

Bad Posture

#1: If you use computers on a daily basis, place your computer screen at eye level to help improve your neck posture.

#2: Sit on the edge of your chair and squeeze your shoulder blades together with your elbows bent at 90 degrees (as if you are pinching an egg between your shoulder blades). Squeeze for five seconds and repeat a few times every hour.

#3: When sitting, squeeze your buttock muscles together for about five to seven seconds. Repeat this action a few times every hour to help activate your core while sitting at a desk.

Physical therapy can also improve your posture. A physical therapist will evaluate which muscles need to be stretched and which ones need to be strengthened as part of your regular exercise regimen. Your physical therapist can help correct joint restrictions, stretch out your tight muscles and establish a strengthening program individualized for you. They may also recommend use of a lumbar roll, or a small towel roll placed at your low back in your car, at your desk, or in your favorite chair. This will help to support your low back and assist in sitting with good posture.

If you want physiotherapy services visit Active Physiotherapy in Calgary, our goal is to have you enjoying all your favourite activities by promoting an efficient return to sport, recreation and your everyday life. Our professional and licensed physiotherapists use a synergistic approach in combining current evidence based knowledge, continued education and years of successful experience to have you feeling your best.

Our Location:

Active Physiotherapy & Wellness Centre

909 1 Ave NE

Calgary, AB T2E 2L3 Canada‎

Tel: +1 403-984-9094 (Map)


How Your Physiotherapist Can Help Heal Your Hamstring Injury

Hamstring injuries are very common amongst athletes and those engaging in running, jumping and sprinting activities such as football and hockey.  Hamstring injuries are serious as they are often recurring, particularly when the initial injury is not treated correctly. If you are suffering from a hamstring injury, read on to find out how your physiotherapist can help you heal more rapidly.

Firstly, it is important to identify the factors that increase your risk of sustaining a hamstring injury. These include;

  • An inadequate warm-up before physical activity
  • A sudden change in pace, for example rapid acceleration while running
  • A sudden and powerful lengthening of the hamstring muscle, such as when you straighten the knee while leaning forwards at the hip during running
  • Stiffness in your lower back.

It is common for increased tension in back tissues and lower limb nerves to be the cause of, or contribute to, hamstring problems.  Therefore, it is important to properly assess these structures to determine their role in the injury and to prevent the injury from recurring. A physiotherapist can help you do this.

Thea actual treatment of a hamstring injury depends on the severity of the muscle tear, but your physiotherapist will generally advise you to perform the following three steps:

  1. RICE in the first 48-36 hours (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation)
  2. Range of motion exercises to maintain flexibility
  3. Strength retraining.

Hamstring Muscle Tear

If you want physiotherapy services visit Active Physiotherapy in Calgary, our goal is to have you enjoying all your favourite activities by promoting an efficient return to sport, recreation and your everyday life. Our professional and licensed physiotherapists use a synergistic approach in combining current evidence based knowledge, continued education and years of successful experience to have you feeling your best.

Our Location:

Active Physiotherapy & Wellness Centre

909 1 Ave NE

Calgary, AB T2E 2L3 Canada‎

Tel: +1 403-984-9094 (Map)


Medications for Arthritis at Active Physiotherapy & Wellness Centre

Welcome to Active Physiotherapy & Wellness Centre’s resource about Medications for Arthritis.

Doctors have only a few kinds of drugs to help treat the many different kinds of arthritis. The three classes of drugs doctors prescribe are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs).
Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

Uses of NSAIDs

The most commonly used drugs are NSAIDs. The over-the-counter drugs aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen are NSAIDs. Your doctor must write a prescription for other NSAIDs. Almost all of the NSAIDs are taken in pill form. Your doctor will probably prescribe only one form of NSAID at a time.

Inflammation is your body’s response to an injury. In normal circumstances, inflammation is the process that helps the injury heal. In arthritis, the inflammatory response gets out of control and actually causes damage to the tissues. NSAIDs help reduce inflammation and they also decrease pain and fever. However, they are short-acting drugs. After NSAIDs have passed through your body, inflammation, pain, and fever can return quickly.

NSAIDs can be very effective against inflammation, which can then lessen your pain and discomfort but they do not prevent tissue damage. Even when NSAIDs are controlling the inflammation, the joint or organ damage of arthritis can continue to get worse.

Complications of NSAIDs

NSAIDs are safe drugs, however, they have many side effects. The side effects happen more often when they are used over long periods of time, which is common in arthritis patients. Some of the side effects can become very serious. It is important to use the lowest doses possible to control your symptoms.

Complications of NSAIDs

GI Effects

NSAIDs can irritate the gastrointestinal (GI) tract (the digestive system consisting of your esophagus, stomach, and intestines). They increase the production of gastric acid, and they harm the gastric lining. NSAIDs can aggravate ulcers and GI bleeding. Up to 5 percent of people who use NSAIDs for a year develop ulcers, bleeding, or tears in the GI tract. The risks are higher for older patients, patients with a history of GI problems, and patients with heart disease. Some prescribed NSAIDs, called COX-2 Inhibitors, act slightly differently in the body to affect inflammation, and for this reason, do not cause the GI symptoms often associated with NSAIDs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen.

Blood Effects

NSAIDs make it harder for the platelets in your blood to clump together at the site of an injury. This can cause bleeding problems. Aspirin especially has this effect. Before you have surgery, you should stop taking aspirin for two weeks to prevent bleeding problems.

Liver Effects

NSAIDs can be toxic to your liver. You will not feel this, but elevated levels of certain liver enzymes can easily be seen in blood tests. Liver function almost always returns to normal when you stop taking NSAIDs.

Kidney Effects

NSAIDs can make it hard for your kidneys to get rid of some kinds of wastes. If you have a history of kidney problems, or if your disease may affect your kidneys, your doctor will use NSAIDs with caution.

Other Effects

Some people get skin reactions and rashes from NSAIDs. Some get a combination of runny nose, polyps in the nose, and asthma. Different kinds of NSAIDs can have different side effects. Salicylates can cause problems with hearing. Other kinds of NSAIDs can cause headaches and confusion, especially in elderly patients. Many of the possible side effects depend on your health and the disease for which you are being treated.
Individuals can react very differently to the same NSAIDs. You and your doctor must work together to find the type and dose of NSAID that controls your symptoms without causing unwanted side effects.


Uses of Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids are chemical copies of hormones that occur naturally in your body. The most commonly used corticosteroids are prednisone, prednisolone, and methylprednisolone. Corticosteroids can be given orally or put directly into the bloodstream through an intravenous needle. They can also be injected directly into an inflamed spot. Corticosteroid cream can be rubbed on the skin.

Corticosteroids are powerful drugs. They drastically decrease inflammation, but they are also highly toxic. Doctors have different opinions about how corticosteroids should be used.
Corticosteroids can’t cure your disease. But they do seem to affect the progression of some diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Complications of Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids can have many unwanted effects on your body. Whether or not you develop these complications depends on many factors: what type of corticosteroid you take, your dose, the length of time you are on it, and how sensitive your body is to these hormones.

The most common side effects are listed below.


All corticosteroids slow bone growth and create conditions that lead to osteoporosis, a disease process that results in reduction of bone mass. Compression fractures of the vertebrae as a result of osteoporosis can happen with long-term corticosteroid use. Women past menopause are most likely to develop osteoporosis. Your doctor may recommend that you take calcium and vitamin D supplements while you take corticosteroids.


High levels of corticosteroids hinder your body’s ability to fight bacterial infections. High-dose corticosteroids can even mask the symptoms of some types of infections, such as abscesses and bowel tears. Most viral infections are not affected, except for herpes, which can sometimes worsen with the use of corticosteroids.

Adrenal Insufficiency

This means that your pituitary and adrenal glands can’t produce adequate amounts of certain kinds of hormones. This can happen after taking corticosteroids in moderate doses for only a few days. Adrenal insufficiency is most likely to happen as you are reducing the dosage.  Adrenal insufficiency can be a problem if you need surgery or if you get an infection or serious injury.


When you stop taking corticosteroids, the doses will be slowly reduced over a period of days or weeks. Even if you have only been taking steroids for a few weeks, you will still need to taper off. Corticosteroid withdrawal can be very difficult for your body. In many patients, the disease symptoms become worse. Some people experience a sickness that includes fevers, nausea, vomiting, low blood pressure, and low blood sugar. Others have withdrawal symptoms that include muscle and joint pain, weight loss, fever, and headaches. If you have problems coming off corticosteroids, your doctor will have you taper off the drug even more slowly.  Different people and different diseases react very differently to corticosteroids. You and your doctor will need to find a dose that controls your symptoms but minimizes unwanted effects.

Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs (DMARDs)

Uses of DMARDs

DMARDs are primarily used to treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and other systemic diseases. In the past twenty years, DMARDs (which are also called slow-acting antirheumatic drugs) have become much more widely used.

The idea behind using DMARDs is to prevent joint damage. This means you start using them early on, and you switch drugs or doses when your current drugs stop working. Using DMARDs requires you to be alert for possible side effects. You also need to be patient as DMARDs take time to work, but they can be very effective at slowing the course of your disease. DMARDs, however, do not cure disease. Very few patients see their disease go into a complete remission. Most patients find that their symptoms come back after months, or sometimes years of improvement on DMARDs.

Doctors often prescribe DMARDs, corticosteroids, and NSAIDs at the same time. The DMARDs affect the underlying disease, and the corticosteroids and NSAIDs give relief from pain and inflammation. Sometimes doctors prescribe two or more DMARDs together. There are few studies to prove how well these combinations work, however, using more than one DMARD does not seem to cause problems with higher toxicity. This means that taking more than one DMARD isn’t any harder on your body than taking just one.

Types and Complications of DMARDs

There are many different types of DMARDs, with different effects and complications. Some are used only for specific types of diseases.

Antimalarial Drugs

Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine have been used since the 1950s for rheumatic diseases but they have been used against malaria for much longer. These drugs are mostly used for RA and lupus.  Chloroquine has more side effects. Side effects include indigestion, rash, and eye problems. Antimalarial drugs take three to four months to show results.


This drug affects the way your immune system functions. Almost 25 percent of patients who take it experience bad side effects within the first year. The most common side effects are rashes, blood and protein in the urine, low numbers of platelets in the blood, and autoimmune problems including drug-induced lupus. Taking penicillamine requires regular blood and urine tests.


This fairly new drug is used primarily in RA and spondyloarthropathies (arthritis of the spine). It may slow down erosions of bone. Almost half of patients develop side effects in the first four months, but most of the reactions are minor. Side effects include rashes, nausea, abdominal pain, liver and blood disorders, low sperm counts, and discolored urine and sweat. You will need liver and blood tests for the first months on this drug.


Gold compounds have been used for eighty years to treat RA. They are also used in juvenile chronic arthritis and psoriatic arthritis. Gold is injected into your muscles, usually once a week. Most patients only use gold compounds for one to five years. After about a year, most patients stop seeing benefits from using gold therapy. And most patients also start having complications. Unwanted side effects include diarrhea, rashes, low levels of platelets and other blood disorders, protein in the urine, lung problems, and sores of the mucous membranes, especially in the mouth. Using gold compounds requires regular blood and urine tests.


Methotrexate shows results in one to two months. Most patients stay on it longer than other DMARDs. In the short term, methotrexate causes nausea, loss of appetite, and high levels of certain liver enzymes. As with all the other DMARDs, there are serious complications with long-term use. It can cause liver damage and lung disease.


This drug is most often used in RA, lupus, and other connective tissue diseases. It can also help offset the negative effects of steroids. Azathioprine is as effective as other DMARDs, but it also has more side effects. It can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bone marrow suppression, and hepatitis. The most troubling long-term side effect is cancer of the lymph system.

Nitrogen Mustard Alkylating Agents

Chlorambucil and cyclophosphamide are the main alkylating agents used as DMARDs. Chlorambucil is usually used to treat RA, juvenile chronic arthritis, vasculitis, systemic sclerosis, and ankylosing spondylitis. However, it can damage the chromosomes. This creates a higher risk for leukemia and other kinds of cancers.

Cyclophosphamide can be taken by mouth or intravenously. It is usually used to treat severe RA, lupus, and systemic vasculitis. Significant negative side effects are common. They include inflammation and bleeding of the ulcer, suppression of the immune system, reproductive problems in men and women, and cancer that may show up long after the drug is stopped.


Cyclosporine can be very effective against RA, but most people who take it develop kidney problems and high blood pressure. Kidney function goes back to normal when you stop taking the drug.
As with NSAIDs and corticosteroids, you and your doctor will need to work together to find the best type and dose of DMARDs for your disease.

Our Location:

Active Physiotherapy & Wellness Centre

909 1 Ave NE

Calgary, AB T2E 2L3 Canada‎

Tel: +1 403-984-9094 (Map)


Physiotherapy in Calgary for Osteoarthritis


Welcome to Active Physiotherapy & Wellness Centre’s patient resource about Osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis. In fact, more than 75 percent of people older than fifty-five show the joint deformations of OA on X-rays. But most of these people have no symptoms. For people who do have the joint pain and stiffness of OA, it can become a crippling disease. Some people suffer from OA in just one joint, while others have it in several joints. It affects more women than men, and most OA patients are over 45.

This guide will help you understand:

  • how OA develops
  • how doctors diagnose the condition
  • what can be done for OA


Where does OA develop?

OA is most common in the small joints of the hands, the spine, the knees, the hips, and certain toe joints. OA primarily affects the articular cartilage, the slippery, cushioned surface that covers the ends of the bones in most joints and lets the bones slide without rubbing. Articular cartilage also functions as a shock absorber.

In OA, the articular cartilage becomes damaged or worn away. As this happens, the joint no longer fits together well or moves smoothly. In the early stages of OA, the cartilage actually becomes thicker as your body tries to repair the damage. The repaired areas are more brittle than the original cartilage, and these brittle areas begin to wear away and become thin. They may even wear away entirely. This eventually leads to a condition called eburnation, in which the bones become thick and polished as they rub together. X-rays can show these changes in the cartilage and bones.

But OA is not just a disease of the cartilage. The damage to the cartilage seems to start a sort of chain reaction that involves all the parts of the joint. Bone spurs, or outgrowths, often begin to form around the edges of the joint. The joint capsule (the watertight sack around the joint) can become thickened and lose its stretch. The synovial membrane that lines the inside of the joint capsule may become inflamed (swollen, red, hot, and painful), and crystals may form in the synovial fluid. The tendons and ligaments around the joint can also become inflamed.

Even the muscles around the joint can lose their strength. This usually occurs as a result of under-use of the muscles due to pain in the joint. When something hurts we subconsciously change the way we use the joint to avoid the pain. This causes the muscles to become weakened.  Cartilage itself does not have nerves to feel pain, therefore the pain of OA probably comes from these other changes in and around the joint.


Why do I have this problem?

The exact cause of OA is not known. There are probably different causes in different people. Doctors think of OA in two different categories, primary OA and secondary OA. Primary OA refers to breakdown of a joint from a disease process. Secondary OA means that something else was wrong–an infection in the joint or a fracture for instance–that caused damage to the joint. Even when the original problem clears up, the chain reaction effect of OA can cause the disease to progress.

Major injuries and repetitive stress both seem to cause OA. A person who breaks an ankle is likely to develop OA in that same ankle. Just like any machine, a joint that is damaged and unbalanced wears out faster. People who consistently put heavy stress on the same joint, such as jackhammer operators or baseball pitchers, are more likely to develop OA in that joint.

OA of the knee and hip occurs much more often in people who are seriously overweight. A study that followed overweight young adults for thirty-six years found that being overweight at a young age was closely related to developing OA later in life. The same study also showed that losing even small amounts of weight decreased the odds of developing OA.

Heredity–your genes–may also play a role for some people, especially women. OA in the fingers, which affects ten times more women than men, shows up much more often among women in the same family. Researchers do know that some genes cause problems with cartilage formation.

In some cases, rare metabolic disorders or other problems with the bones or joints can lead to OA. But the primary factor in most patients with OA seems to be age. If you’re lucky enough to live a long life, you are much more likely to develop OA.


What does OA feel like?

Patients with OA have one or more joints that are painful and stiff. The pain is a deep, dull ache that usually comes on gradually. Pain gets worse when the joint is used and gets better with rest. The joint is stiff after waking up or after not being used for some time, but the stiffness usually goes away fairly quickly. Over time the pain and the stiffness become almost constant.

No matter which joints are affected, OA patients report many of the same symptoms

  • Most patients say that the pain is worse in cool, damp weather.
  • Many OA patients feel or hear crackling or popping in the affected joints (called crepitus). This is most common in the knees.
  • Joints enlarge or change shape. The enlarged areas are often tender to the touch.
  • In most cases the affected joints can’t move through a normal range of motion.
  • In other cases the joints have become so unstable that they can actually move too much or in the wrong direction.

Some symptoms depend on the affected joint. Patients with knee OA may have problems with the joint locking up, especially when they are stepping up or down. Patients with OA of the hip often limp. OA of the hands can affect the strength and movement of fingers and make simple tasks such as getting dressed very difficult. OA of the spine can cause neck and low back pain as well as weakness and numbness.


How is the condition diagnosed?

It may seem that diagnosing OA would simply involve a few X-rays. However, it is very important that we rule out other forms of arthritis or causes of joint pain. We will also need to figure out if your OA was caused by another problem or injury (secondary OA).  Even if OA is the main problem, the breakdown of cartilage may have caused problems in other parts of the joint that need to be addressed.

Both your physiotherapist and physician will ask you many detailed questions about your health and activity history. Explaining the nature of your pain will be important. Following the history the we will thoroughly examine the affected joints, look at your posture, assess your muscle balance and strength and determine your level of functioning in daily activities. This will help us determine if your pain is stemming from the joints themselves or some other area or cause within the body.  X-rays will most likely be taken by your physician. Blood samples and samples of the synovial fluid in the joint may also be taken to try to identify other systemic or inflammatory problems.

Our Treatment

What can be done for the problem?

There is no cure for OA. It is a chronic but very treatable disease. Our goals of treatment at Active Physiotherapy & Wellness Centre are to relieve your pain and to improve or maintain the movement of your joints.

Much of the treatment for OA involves no prescriptions at all. The physiotherapists at Active Physiotherapy & Wellness Centre will encourage you to take several steps to help manage your symptoms:

  • Get aerobic exercise.
  • Do strengthening and range of motion exercises. These are most often taught and monitored by physical or occupational therapists.
  • Lose weight if necessary
  • Use heat and/or cold packs.
  • Tape the knee, if it is affected.
  • Wear insoles in your shoes if the lower extremity is affected.
  • Receive massage.
  • Use adaptive equipment to help take pressure off your joints, such as a cane or special gadget to open jars.
  • Participate in education programs or support groups.

Drugs are available to help alleviate your pain. An over-the-counter pain reliever, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) may be recommended by your doctor. If this doesn’t work, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and aspirin, may be prescribed. The main problem with NSAIDs is that they can be very hard on your stomach and kidneys over time and you may be taking these drugs for many years. In rare cases of extreme pain, your physician may prescribe stronger pain medications but these can be addictive and must be used with caution.

All these medications can interact with other drugs. You must let your doctor know what other medicines you are taking, and you must work closely with your doctor to set up dose amounts and schedules.

In recent years, two unique compounds have been used by people with OA. These compounds are gaining greater acceptance among many health care providers. Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are dietary supplements taken in pill form that have shown benfits of reducing pain and increasing joint mobility. These treatments are controversial, yet some medical professionals feel there are enough benefits to encourage their patients to supplement with these compounds.

Active Physiotherapy & Wellness Centre provides physiotherapy in Calgary.


When pain cannot be relieved and joint function cannot be maintained, your doctor may recommend surgery. While this option may sound scary, surgery can be very effective in treating OA.

Many types of surgical procedures have been designed to treat OA of different joints. Perhaps the most well known treatment is artificial joint replacement. Artificial joint replacement is the final answer to OA after the joint is totally destroyed, but other surgical procedures have been designed to treat osteoarthritis in early stages to reduce symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.

It will take some work to manage your OA, but it is possible. OA doesn’t always worsen over time. In many patients the disease stabilizes. In some patients, especially those with OA of the knee, the disease can actually reverse itself. And even when the OA does continue to progress, it often moves very slowly.

If you want physiotherapy services visit Active Physiotherapy in Calgary, our goal is to have you enjoying all your favourite activities by promoting an efficient return to sport, recreation and your everyday life. Our professional and licensed physiotherapists use a synergistic approach in combining current evidence based knowledge, continued education and years of successful experience to have you feeling your best.

Our Location:

Active Physiotherapy & Wellness Centre

909 1 Ave NE

Calgary, AB T2E 2L3 Canada‎

Tel: +1 403-984-9094 (Map)