Exercise could benefit people with knee arthritis

In a new study, researchers found that exercise does not harm articular cartilage of the knee in people with osteoarthritis.

In fact, exercise can benefit articular cartilage and help patients manage the condition.

Osteoarthritis a leading cause of disability worldwide linked to pain, impaired mobility and quality of life.

Physical exercise (including therapeutic exercise) currently is one of the three key osteoarthritis treatment guidelines, alongside weight control and patient education.

Therapeutic exercise is a plan of physical activities designed and prescribed for specific therapeutic goals.

It aims to restore normal musculoskeletal function or to reduce pain caused by diseases or injuries.

An example is a supervised group-based neuromuscular exercise program, twice weekly for at least 12 weeks.

Similarly, aquatic therapeutic exercise, strengthening, aerobic or a combination of these has been shown to have comparable benefits.

However, there is a common belief that exercise may harm knee joint cartilage. This creates a big barrier to using evidence-based exercise care.

In the new study, the team did systematic reviews of people at risk of, or with, knee osteoarthritis to see the impact of therapeutic exercise on knee joint health.

They reviewed a total of 21 previous studies, conducted across a wide range of countries including Denmark, the US, Holland, Turkey, Finland, Japan, Sweden, Canada, Brazil, and China.

A total of 702 participants’ data were included.

The team showed that therapeutic exercise does not harm the articular cartilage in the knee.

The second review included an additional 12 studies with 1,114 participants and found that therapeutic exercise does not increase knee joint inflammation.

The team says that the belief that exercise is harmful to cartilage is based on misinformation and the current discord between evidence and persistent beliefs highlights the need for better education.

People with knee osteoarthritis need to be reassured that therapeutic exercise prescribed to prevent or treat symptomatic knee osteoarthritis is safe and could improve cartilage composition.

Instead of rest and activity avoidance, they should do regular exercise and physical activity, which is essential for good joint and general health.

The lead author of the study is Alessio Bricca, Research Fellow at the University of Aberdeen’s Institute of Medical Sciences.

The study findings are published in the British Medical Journal, Arthritis Care and Research, and Osteoarthritis and Cartilage.

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