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Osteoarthritis Health Center

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Exercise Can Help Knee Pain if You Stick With It

Arthritis Patients Who Exercised Regularly Had the Best Results

Knee Pain Patients Aren’t All Alike

Physical therapist and professor of physical therapy Lynn Snyder-Mackler, ScD, agrees.

Snyder-Mackler is a colleague of Zeni’s at the University of Delaware.

“These studies looked at a single intervention because this is an easy thing to study, but it doesn’t tell us much about what is really happening in the real world,” she says.

She adds that individual patients need different approaches to physical therapy that take into account such things as their level of pain and disability, muscle strength, and range of motion.

“A good physical therapist will measure these things before coming up with a therapeutic strategy,” she says.

Zeni says an exercise program can make a huge difference in a patient’s quality of life, even when the patient is planning to have knee surgery.

“Many people think they don’t have to bother with exercise because they are going to have their knees replaced anyway,” he says. “But one of the biggest predictors of postoperative success is preoperative status. People who increase their strength and range of motion with exercise before surgery have the best outcomes.”

Weight Loss Helps Hurting Knees

According to one study, older adults with knee osteoarthritis who exercise at least three times a week can reduce their risk for arthritis-related disability by almost half.

Zeni says resistance training, muscular strengthening, lower-extremity muscle strengthening and range of motion exercises, and aerobic exercises are all recommended.

For patients who are overweight, weight loss can also make a big difference.

Every pound you gain adds 4 pounds of pressure on the knees. “So even losing 10 pounds can have a dramatic impact,” he says.

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