Walking may prevent new knee pain for some, Study Proposal

Promise new research showed that walking can prevent knee pain in people with osteoarthritis.

Researchers surveyed more than 1,000 people aged 50 and older with knee arthritis, the most common type of arthritis in the United States. Some have persistent pain from the start, while others don’t. After 4 years, people who started experiencing no knee pain as often and walked at least 10 times for exercise had less stiffness or soreness around the new knee, more often, and less structural damage in the knee. . Research shows that people with knee osteoarthritis may especially benefit from walking.

Research offers the potential of an easy – and free – way to combat one of the most common culprits of knee pain in older adults.

“The findings represent ‘a paradigm shift’,” said Dr. Grace Hsiao-Wei Lo, an assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and lead author of the study. “People are always looking for some kind of drug. This highlights the importance and possibility that interventions for osteoarthritis could be something different, including good old exercise.” Research shows that exercise can help manage osteoarthritis in other joints, like those in the hips, hands, and feet.

Osteoarthritis, sometimes called “wear and tear” arthritis, affects more than 32.5 million adults in the U.S. and occurs when joint cartilage breaks down and the underlying bone begins to change, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. and Disease Prevention. Lo says the risk of developing the condition increases as you get older, and about a third of people over 60 have osteoarthritis of the knee. Many patients use drugs like ibuprofen or naproxen to treat the pain, she added, which can lead to kidney problems and ulcers in large doses.

Instead, they can turn to exercise. Elaine Husni, a rheumatologist at the Cleveland Clinic who was not involved in the study, said that for decades, medical professionals viewed walking primarily as a way to promote heart health. However, in recent years, doctors have looked to low-impact exercises to treat conditions such as: Depression, cognitive decline and mild osteoarthritis. But new research suggests that walking can also act as a preventative measure, Dr. Lo said, and suggests that people at higher risk of developing the condition may want to incorporate regular walking. into their habits. For example, Dr. Lo herself believes that, based on her findings, she should walk more, because her mother has osteoarthritis.

The study began in 2004 and recorded the participants’ baseline knee pain, using X-ray imaging to assess their osteoarthritis status. The researchers then asked the participants to record their exercise habits and review their symptoms at regular follow-up visits, asking how often their knees hurt.

After four years, 37% of study participants who didn’t walk for exercise (excluding the occasional train ride or grocery store) had new and frequent knee pain, compared with 26% of those who did. walk.

Of course, researchers can’t say definitively that walking can prevent knee pain, and it doesn’t seem to reduce existing pain. Self-assessments may be less accurate than fitness trackers or pedometers. And the researchers did not track how far or how often people walked, nor recommend strategies for how and when people with osteoarthritis should incorporate walking into their exercise routine. their fitness.

However, the results reinforce what clinicians already know about How to control osteoarthritis?. “Continuous movement can help build muscle mass and strengthen the ligaments around osteoarthritis joints,” says Dr. Husni. Walking is a low-intensity, low-impact exercise that allows people to maintain strength and flexibility, which is important for healthy joints, she adds.

“It’s an intervention that anyone can do,” she said. “You have no excuse at all. You can do it anywhere.”

Justen Elbayar, a sports medicine specialist in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at NYU Langone Health, who was not involved in the study. Long distance walking can worsen pain in some patients with severe arthritis – but for those with milder arthritis, “it’s one of the best exercises you can do,” he said. can do”.

He recommends that people start with a small, short walk, increasing the distance over time. The goal of the exercise, he says, is to provide muscular support to the knee joint, and for the joints, tendons and tissues to become acclimated to walking.

He also suggests using supportive shoes, drinking plenty of water while walking, and taking frequent breaks if you feel tired or just getting used to it. After a long walk, a cold compress on the knee can also help ease discomfort, he adds.

While walking down the street can’t repair cartilage or fix existing pain, exercise offers an attractive and accessible option for stopping the more intrusive aspects of osteoarthritis, says Dr. Dr. Lo said. Finally, she adds, “walking doesn’t cost a dime.”

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