There is no shortage of knee arthritis exercises out there. This is because knee arthritis rates in women are sky rocketing and with that epidemic, the rates of knee replacements closely follow. However, when newer biologic therapies are considered (like stem cells), one also needs to spend more time analyzing whether other systems of the body need fine tuning. As discussed in our book, Orthopedics 2.0, the status of the muscles that surround the joint are often as big a deal as the condition of the joint. So what happens when you take women with arthritis and put them through a gym program to strengthen their legs? Well if the problem was all in their joint, you would think that the program wouldn’t help. This is not what a team of researchers out of Brazil found.
The knee joint is surrounded by strong ligaments and muscles that keep it stable. However, how important is that stability? Our modern surgically based knee treatment system tends to be quick to operate on the joint, amputating it and replacing what was removed with metal, plastic, or ceramic. What if the reason for the pain was about more than the joint? Our e-book talks about this is great detail-when you begin to help patients control their arthritis with biologic agents like stem cells, other issues such as loose ligaments and weak muscles become important.
This new research focused on women with knee joint arthritis who were 40-70 and who has 3-8/10 knee pain. The gym program included moderately heavy weights (50-70% of what they could maximally lift) and focused on the quads and hamstrings as well as the hip abductors and adductors. Every two weeks they reaccessed to see if the weights needed to go up. The results after 12 weeks were pretty good. Pain decreased by 39% (from a 7/10 to a 4.3/10) in the treatment group and not much in the control group who didn’t hit the gym. Knee function and muscle strength also improved. The remarkable thing was how much this patient group hurt at the start of the program. The average pain in both groups was a 7/10! This means that they didn’t start with patients who had a little knee pain, they used patients who had severe pain.
The upshot? Getting rid of arthritic knee pain is more than just about how the joint looks on an MRI. As this study shows, just hitting the gym can help patients with severe knee pain!