Do Arthritis Exercises Work? New Research Says Less Pain Related to Leg Strength

do arthritis exercises work

I’ve been asked many times by patients, “Do arthritis exercises work?” Knee arthritis is an exploding epidemic as our population becomes older and heavier. Several studies have confirmed that exercise is one simple remedy for the pain and lost function that comes with knee arthritis. However, nobody has been quite sure why this works. Now a new study shows that that the reduction in symptoms is likely due to getting stronger leg muscles.

Arthritis is defined by a host of changes in the knee joint. This includes lost cartilage and the addition of bone spurs. The latter usually happens when the knee is unstable and the bones react to provide stability. The meniscus spacer of the joint also gets chewed up and the overall internal environment goes from helpful to a harmful toxic stew of chemicals. Finally, we now know that the nerves get in on the act all the way up to your spinal cord. Patients also lose strength and position sense in the knee. With all of these things going on, it’s not a surprise that researchers weren’t sure why exercise seemed to help. Was it helping the cartilage? Perhaps improving the toxic stew?

The study looked at about 150 patients with knee arthritis in a rehab center who were asked to participate in an exercise program. After measuring pain/function, leg strength, and position sense while the group exercised for about 8 months, the authors used a statistical regression analysis to determine if either leg strength or position sense was independently associated with improved pain. In the end, for each unit of increased strength in the leg, there was a reduction of 2.5 units of pain.

The upshot? While many things may be at work here in reducing pain, several studies have shown that exercise is a simple treatment for arthritis. While it’s true that some patients have too much pain to exercise effectively, this is where therapies like autologous biologics can come in handy. However, for everyone else, just strengthening your quads and hamstrings in a gym is better than popping a dangerous Motrin pill!

Learn More About Regenexx® Procedures
Request a digital booklet and more information to learn about alternatives to orthopedic surgery and the Regenexx patient experience.
We do not sell, or share your information to third party vendors. By submitting the form you agree that you've read and consent to our Privacy Policy.
Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications. View Profile

If you have questions or comments about this blog post, please email us at [email protected]

NOTE: This blog post provides general information to help the reader better understand regenerative medicine, musculoskeletal health, and related subjects. All content provided in this blog, website, or any linked materials, including text, graphics, images, patient profiles, outcomes, and information, are not intended and should not be considered or used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please always consult with a professional and certified healthcare provider to discuss if a treatment is right for you.