Saturday, February 9, 2013

What Are You Waiting For? Get Moving!

As I’ve noted in the past, I get regular e-mail alerts from Google about the latest Internet content that relates to knee and cartilage problems. Sometimes a theme will emerge, repeated across a number of alerts. One theme I’ve written about several times before: Lose weight! Another I’m writing about today: Get moving!

If you have chronic knee pain, don’t take it lying (or sitting) down. You need to move that bad joint to have any hope of saving it. All the evidence firmly points in that direction.

Let’s start with the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. Researchers there reviewed 193 studies conducted between 1970 and 2012 that looked at treatments for osteoarthritis-related knee pain that didn’t involve drugs or surgery.

This meta-analysis showed:
Exercise fared the best at improving pain and mobility, as long as subjects followed through with a program, while the researchers found that few physical therapy interventions were as effective.
The favored activities: low-impact aerobic exercise and water exercise (yes!) as well as strength training (eh -- be careful!).

A Wall Street Journal reporter noted the shift in thinking that has occurred, writing “Doctors increasingly are recommending physical activity to help osteoarthritis patients, overturning the more traditional medical advice for people to take it easy to protect their joints.” Exercise reduces pain and improves mobility of the hurt joint.

“The most dangerous exercise you can do when you have arthritis is none,” Kate Lorig, director of the Patient Education Research Center at Stanford University, says in the Journal article.

In fact, the reason you have problems in the first place may be because you’re not moving enough. According to Indian orthopedic surgeon Madan Hardikar, there are two key causes of knee pain: (1) for the old, it’s natural wear and tear of the joints (2) for the young, it’s a sedentary lifestyle (he cites the country’s IT workers, who put in 12- to 15-hour workdays at a computer and who often don’t get any exercise outside work either).

To conclude, here’s a cool arthritis story (even though it doesn’t involve knees, but hands):

Margaret Crowell was an elite tennis player who had osteoarthritis in her thumbs and hands. An orthopedic specialist said nothing could be done to prevent the disease from worsening.

Luckily, Crowell refused to believe him and give up. She discovered the benefits of gentle exercise and movement and managed to reverse her symptoms. Now she gives classes for older adults that emphasize slow stretching and agility movements.

So there you go.

As with the need to lose weight, there’s no debate here.

Move, move, move!

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