Ageing is inevitable and destined for the human body—it brings various unwanted and unavoidable changes in our body with time, including debilitating changes in joints and bones.
Osteoarthritis (OA) means inflammation of joint— it is a classic age related joint condition. Although it can affect any joint, it often involves weight-bearing joints such as hip and knee joints, leading to significant mobility issues and disability (1). In fact, OA is a leading cause of slow progressive functional disability in old age.
More than 10 million people in the UK have arthritis (2). In England, nearly 1 in 5 adults over 40 yrs. have OA knee, and 1 in 9 adults have OA hip (1).
What symptoms and difficulties do patients with OA often face in daily life?
- Joint stiffness, specifically in the morning or after getting up from a sitting position
- Unable to walk for more than 10 minutes
- Limited and painful range of motion at knees or hip
- Loss of confidence whilst walking
- Losing community and social connections due to difficulty in mobility
OA significantly disturbs patients' everyday life, affecting their ability to work, care for their family, move freely without pain and live independently.
OA caused impaired mobility may put the elderly at risk of other health problems, such as more chances of DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis). Due to less or minimum physical activity, OA patients are also at risk of obesity, which could further worsen and complicate arthritis issues. In the given circumstances— a walking aid for these patients can be the best solution to facilitate stable, comfortable and independent mobility.
A study published in the Journal of Arthritis and Rheumatism revealed
that almost half of the OA patients owned a walking aid (3). A remarkable symptomatic relief was also noticed by OA patients with the walking aid use i.e., a significant reduction in morning stiffness in joints (3).
Another study published in the Journal of Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation revealed that though OA is a progressive disease, walking aid use (like a rollator) can reduce the further progression of wear and tear in OA-affected knees (4).
Use of Rollator as a Walking Aid in Osteoarthritis
A rollator is an assisted walking device like a standard walker. Perhaps, the rollator holds added features, such as wheels and a seat and handbrake to control it. Rollators provide the best support for walking.
Nevertheless, rollator can be a great walking aid for those patients who can balance well and are cognitively intact.
Benefits of Using a Rollator Walking Aid in Osteoarthritis
- Rollator facilitates OA patients to have a stable and confident walk with a smooth walking gait.
- Rollator enables patients to distribute their body weight away from painful knees as they move— hence more mobility with less pain.
- The seat with a rollator allows patients to sit and rest whilst continuing activities beyond their endurance or pain tolerance.
- Walking with a rollator requires less energy and causes no exhaustion.
- The rollator requires no laborious lifting of the entire frame on each step-it rolls with a slight push as the patient walks along.
- A rollator can easily be rolled over uneven ground and threshold ramps.
- A rollator is ideal for both indoor and outdoor walks.
Are walkers and rollators the same?
No, they are not the same. A rollator seems similar to a standard walker, but they have some differences. A standard walker has a solid frame that has to be lifted to move forward, which can be physically exhausting. On the other hand, a rollator is more manoeuvrable than a standard walker since it is wheels equipped, making it easy to push with light and minimal effort.
Besides, unlike a walker, the rollator has a seat to sit and rest during walks or long-duration activities.
Perhaps, there is a word of caution for people with cognitive impairment (dementia) or balance and coordination issues —they should avoid using a rollator since it may enhance their chances of fall and injury.
Take home Message
Osteoarthritis is a joint inflammatory condition that often affects people in old age. Painful joints and subsequent impaired mobility are common manifestations of OA, which impedes patients' daily life and physical activities that may further put them at risk of other diseases and weight gain. A walking aid like a rollator seems very helpful for patients with OA since it provides them extra stability and supports their body weight to move independently.
References (APA style):
- Versus Arthritis. (n.d.). Prevalence of osteoarthritis in England . Retrieved June 22, 2023, from https://www.versusarthritis.org/media/13374/birmingham-oa-1.pdf
- Versus Arthritis. (2021). The State of Musculoskeletal Health 2021. Versus Arthritis. https://www.versusarthritis.org/about-arthritis/data-and-statistics/the-state-of-musculoskeletal-health/
- Van der Esch, M., Heijmans, M., & Dekker, J. (2003). Factors contributing to possession and use of walking aids among persons with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Arthritis & Rheumatism, 49(6), 838–842. https://doi.org/10.1002/art.11463
- Carbone, L. D., Satterfield, S., Liu, C., Kwoh, K. C., Neogi, T., Tolley, E., & Nevitt, M. (2013). Assistive Walking Device Use and Knee Osteoarthritis: Results From the Health, Aging and Body Composition Study (Health ABC Study). Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 94(2), 332–339. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apmr.2012.09.021