Arthritis symptoms: Best types of exercise to reduce pain – particularly in the knees

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There are more than 100 types of arthritis but one of the most common types in the UK is rheumatoid arthritis. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system mistakenly attacks the lining of the joints. This causes inflammation in the joints that can impede joint mobility and cause considerable pain. A new study has found the best type of exercise to help reduce symptoms, particularly those found in the knees.

A team of researchers at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, in collaboration with health professionals from Pakistan, conducted research to assess the significance of rehabilitation exercises for osteoarthritis patients – particularly for those with pain felt in the knees.

“There is a gap in medical literature for utilizing the rehabilitation exercises of major muscle groups of lower limbs in non-weight bearing positions in overweight and knees of obese osteoarthritis patients,” said Professor Muhammad Tariq Rafiq, lead author of the study.

The team focused on the effects of rehabilitation exercises on the lower limbs on weight, functional strength, and exercise adherence in these patients to see if there was a notable improvement for symptoms associated with arthritis.

The study included two groups (one control group and one rehabilitation group) 56 knee osteoarthritis patients with a BMI above 25 units aged between 45 and 60 years were involved in the study.      

The patients in the rehabilitation group performed rehabilitation exercises of the lower limbs three times a week for 12 weeks with sessions lasting 45–60 minutes.

The patients in the control group adhered to general daily care instructions for a duration of 12 weeks with guidelines covered on mobility (avoidance of stair climbing and jogging) and reduction of body weight by healthy eating (avoiding eating fatty and sugary food).

Information about each patient’s vitals, and exercise adherence was collected after 12-weeks of the interventions.

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Exercise rehabilitation is a personally prescribed set of exercises that range from active movement through to strengthening exercises using body weight and resistance machines or free weights.

Rehabilitation exercises aim to return full function following injury through re-building muscle strength, endurance, power and improving overall flexibility and mobility.

Exercise rehabilitation plays an integral part in recovery from pain or injury and in many cases the success of healing is attributed to undertaking a thorough and progressive rehabilitation plan.

The researchers noted that the patients in the rehabilitation group reported a statistically more significant improvement in functional strength and reduction in weight than the control group.

“This may be due to the effectiveness of exercises of the lower limbs in the rehabilitation group,” noted Professor Rafiq.

“Exercises of lower limbs may affect the strength of lower limb muscles.

“We see that home-based exercise intervention may be effective for relieving knee osteoarthritis symptoms and increasing physical functioning.”

The authors have published their findings in Current Rheumatology Reviews.

Weight gain and exercise on arthritis symptoms

“Each pound you gain adds nearly four pounds of stress to your knees and increases pressure on your hips six-fold,” said the Arthritis Foundation.

The health charity added: “The extra strain breaks down the cartilage that cushions these joints and that gets worse over time.

“Excess fat tissue can also contribute to the production of cytokines – proteins that cause inflammation in the body.

“Inside of the joints, cytokines destroy tissue by altering the function of cartilage cells.”

Therefore, the less exercise you do, the more weight you put on, the more inflammatory cytokines can destroy the joints in the body.

Alternatively, the more exercise you do, the less likely you’ll be overweight, and there’ll be less damage to your joints.

As well as keeping joints healthy by reducing the likelihood of cytokines attacking the area, exercise is the best treatment for arthritis symptoms with experts recommending at least 30 minutes five times a week to keep joints supple and healthy.
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