Osteoarthritis: Treat with Exercise

A review article from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver shows that exercise does not increase the rate of knee damage in people with osteoarthritis, and usually reduces knee pain and disability (Canadian Family Physician, September 2009).

If you develop pain in your knee that was not caused by an accident or trauma, your doctor will usually check you for known causes of joint damage. If he finds no cause, he will tell you that you have osteoarthritis, which means that he doesn't know why your knee hurts. Most people with osteoarthritis (not associated with trauma) are overweight, do not exercise, and/or have weak muscles that support knee movements.

Osteoarthritis causes a higher incidence of disability than any other chronic condition. It makes exercise difficult, and not exercising increases risk for heart attacks. One in three North Americans over 60 have X ray evidence of osteoarthritis.

People with osteoarthritis should avoid contact sports, but exercise is more effective than any medication to treat this condition. The best activities include swimming and other water- based exercises, stationary cycling or cycling on the road, and muscle strengthening exercises using Nautilus machines or similar equipment at a gym. People with knee osteoarthritis should avoid sports that involve sudden shocks to the knee, such as when the foot hits the ground during running. Inactivity and overweight increase your chances of further knee damage and often lead to a joint replacement. More on arthritis


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