Arthritis in your knee? Exercise the pain away
Exercising to eliminate pain may sound counterintuitive, but that is exactly what people with arthritis in their joints should do.
Doctors and physical therapists have long advised physical therapy and exercise, but a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine supports that advice with results from a survey of 83 patients who received manual therapy followed by a knee exercise program at home.
After a year, the participants in the treatment group who did the combination of physical therapy and exercise showed significant improvements over those in the non-treatment group.
“It was a really well done study,” said Sarah Lessard-Reiss, PT, a physical therapist at Cape Cod Healthcare’s Outpatient Rehabilitation Services. “It seemed valid and reliable and definitely supported a combination of manual therapy for promoting decreased pain and increased function with arthritic knees, which is a great thing. It also helps people put off joint replacement as long as possible.”
Manual physical therapy helps people get their motion back to a normal range and then strengthens the muscles so they can provide more support to the joint, she said. Most arthritis patients require between eight to 12 sessions over a period of four to six weeks.
“The key is the follow through because if they don’t follow through they’re more likely to regress,” she said.
Lessard-Reiss suggested people with arthritis go to a gym or join a walking group.
“Walking is good for your joints because it’s not too much stress, but it stresses them appropriately and its good cardiovascular exercise.”
Lessard-Reiss said it’s hard to predict if patients will avoid joint replacement surgery entirely, because over time their joint will continue to deteriorate, depending on the level of arthritis. But even delaying the surgery can be beneficial, she said.
“For a younger population it is definitely a good option if they can get relief through exercise and physical therapy versus going right to the replacement,” she said.
“Prosthetics do have a life span and if it’s a younger person, then they may end up having a second one or even a third. At this point in time, they can only do so many and then the bone deteriorates and they end up having to have a fusion where their leg can no longer bend.”
The good news is that most people with arthritis have excellent results with physical therapy.
“We don’t eliminate the pain, but what we’re looking for is to bring it down to a lower level so it’s less intense,” said Lessard-Reiss.
When patients have physical therapy, episodes of irritation or aggravation tend to not last as long and are not as painful as they were previously, she added. That applies to their baseline pain as well, so they are more comfortable returning to their normal activities.
The CCHC Outpatient Rehabilitation Services offers a wide array of services, Lessard-Reiss said, and just moved into new quarters at 905 Attucks Lane in Independence Park.
“It’s a brand new building that was just finished,” Lessard-Reiss said. “We’ve upgraded our equipment and the facility is gorgeous.”