National Arthritis Awareness Month

National Arthritis Awareness Month

Dr Darren Player is a Post-Doctoral Research Associate and Translational Scientist at Loughborough University working with the Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis

May is recognised as National Arthritis Awareness Month, so we invited Dr Darren Player, Post Doctoral Research Associate at Loughborough University and part of the Centre for Sport, Exercise and Arthritis to tell us all about the role of exercise for managing osteoarthritis.


Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of debilitating joint disease, with a staggering 9.6% of men and 18% of women worldwide suffering with symptomatic OA. The most frequently affected joints are the hip, knee and small joints in the hands, with pain and reduced function affecting an individual’s ability to perform daily tasks.

 

There are many treatment and management options for persons with OA, including pharmacological, non-pharmacological, surgical and non-surgical treatments depending on the stage and severity of the condition. The focus however should be on reducing joint pain and increasing function of the joint to support movement. The ‘Osteoarthritis: Care and Management’ clinical guidelines published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, recommends a holistic approach to the treatment and management of OA which includes a significant emphasis on the role of exercise and physical activity. The recommendations for exercise prescription will be personal to the individual; however increasing levels of daily activity and conducting both resistance and aerobic-type exercise are important.

 

There is scientific evidence that individuals with OA-related pain have reduced muscle strength in the muscles surrounding their affected joint. Furthermore, there is also evidence that muscle weakness can contribute to and exacerbate the development of OA. This suggests that muscle strengthening exercises (resistance exercise) should be conducted to improve strength and stability of the joint.

 

Exercise should also be conducted for the purposes of weight loss for persons who are overweight or obese and have OA, as evidence suggests the greater the weight loss achieved, the greater the reduction in pain symptoms. Reducing bodyweight will also decrease the strain on joints and may help to increase self-confidence and improve personal outlook on the condition. This may be achieved by performing aerobic exercise, which will also improve general cardiovascular fitness and reduce the likelihood of developing other co-morbidities including diabetes and high blood pressure. Such activities including walking, cycling and swimming could be considered.

 

For more information on exercise and osteoarthritis you may wish to explore the following websites: