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Osteoarthritis Health Center

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National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

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What Research Is Being Done on Osteoarthritis? continued...

Exercise and weight reduction

Exercise plays a key part in a comprehensive treatment plan. Researchers are studying exercise in greater detail and finding out just how to use it in treating or preventing osteoarthritis. For example, several scientists have studied knee osteoarthritis and exercise. Their results included the following:

  • Walking can result in better functioning, and the more you walk, the farther you will be able to walk.
  • People with knee osteoarthritis who are active in an exercise program feel less pain. They also function better.

Research has shown that losing extra weight can help people who already have osteoarthritis. Moreover, overweight or obese people who do not have osteoarthritis may reduce their risk of developing the disease by losing weight. A NIAMS-funded study is investigating the use of regular aerobic exercise in people with osteoarthritis of the knee to determine if standard guidelines for cardiovascular fitness may be useful for the treatment of early osteoarthritis as well.


Researchers are studying the effectiveness of a variety of different types of treatment. These include:

Drugs to prevent joint damage: No treatment actually prevents osteoarthritis or reverses or blocks the disease process once it begins. Present treatments just relieve the symptoms.

Researchers are looking for drugs that would prevent, slow down, or reverse joint damage. Drugs under study include:

  • doxycycline, an antibiotic drug that may stop certain enzymes known to damage cartilage. A recent clinical trial found that doxycycline had a modest effect on slowing the rate at which the joint space narrows in the knee. The trial also found that people who were taking doxycycline experienced joint pain less often than those who were not.

  • the bisphosphonate drug risedronate: In a recent British study of several hundred people with mildto-moderate osteoarthritis of the knee, those treated with risedronate showed a clear trend toward reduced symptoms and improved joint structure.

More studies are needed for both drugs.

Estrogen: In studies of older women, scientists found a lower risk of osteoarthritis in those who had used oral estrogens for hormone replacement therapy. The researchers suspect that having low levels of estrogen could increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis.

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