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Exercise can Ease Knee Pain from Arthritis



NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Therapeutic exercise programs can help reduce knee pain from osteoarthritis, and can also help the joint to function better, an analysis of 14 studies shows.

Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage that cushions joints breaks down, leading to pain and swelling. In the US, osteoarthritis is a leading cause of disability among the elderly. There is currently no cure for osteoarthritis, and treatment focuses on reducing symptoms.

Dr. Marlene Fransen of the University of Sydney in Australia and colleagues from the University of Toronto, Canada, reviewed 14 studies including a total of 1,633 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee.

The selected trials evaluated individual, group and home-based therapeutic exercise programs that included muscle strengthening, aerobic walking and balance coordination.

Most study participants, 936, participated in therapeutic exercise, while the rest had been assigned to a non-exercise "control" group. Each exercise session lasted 30 to 90 minutes and exercise program duration ranged from 1 month to 3 months. The findings are published in the August issue of the Journal of Rheumatology.

The investigators found that for patients with symptomatic osteoarthritis of the knee, these types of exercises had "at least immediate moderate" benefits in terms of reducing lower limb pain, and "immediate small" benefits in terms of self-reported improvement in physical function.

The researchers were unable to determine the effects of similar exercises on pain associated with osteoarthritis of the hip because only two studies including 100 patients were identified that could potentially provide sufficient information.

While there is currently no cure for osteoarthritis, Fransen and colleagues conclude that "disease-related factors, such as impaired muscle function and fitness, are potentially amenable to exercise intervention."

SOURCE: Journal of Rheumatology 2002;29:1737-1745.


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