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A Viable Exercise Option for Patients with Knee Arthritis

Patients who are diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis are often told to engage in regular physical exercise to improve activity and function within the joints; however, joint pain often makes it difficult for patients to complete these exercise regimens. When patients are unable to complete their physical activities, it makes it much less likely that they'll be able to achieve the therapeutic benefits associated with daily activity and the management of knee osteoarthritis pain and discomfort.

As a medical professional, it's vital for you to be able to provide your knee osteoarthritis patients with viable exercises that decrease knee pain while improving overall cardiovascular fitness levels. Fortunately, researchers have discovered the benefits of aquatic treadmill exercises on gait kinematics, movement-related and disease-related knee pain with patients who suffer from osteoarthritis.

Researchers from Utah State University and the University of Florida conducted a study in which participants with knee osteoarthritis underwent three exercise sessions on a land treadmill and an aquatic treadmill. Each exercise session was separated by at least 24 hours in one week. Researchers measured the gait kinematics and joint pain before and after each intervention to help gauge the impact of each exercise on individuals with knee osteoarthritis.

The results were encouraging. The study revealed that patients greatly improved their angular velocity for left knee extension, as well as left knee internal rotation and extension after aquatic treadmill exercise (38%, 65% and 20%, respectively). On the right side of the body, the angular velocity of the right hip extension was greatly improved after patients exercised on the aquatic treadmill (28%). Traditional land treadmill exercises showed no improvement except in left ankle abduction during stance, in which the joint angle gain score was significantly higher (4.72%).

What's even more encouraging is the difference in pain scores that patients reported after exercising on both aquatic and land treadmills. Patients with knee osteoarthritis reported a perceived pain that was 100% greater on the land treadmill than on the aquatic treadmill.

The study concluded that patients who performed exercise regimens on an aquatic treadmill are far more likely to experience lessened arthritis-related joint pain. Therefore, doctors who have patients that find it difficult to complete therapeutic exercise regimens should recommend aquatic treadmills as a conservative treatment that can decrease arthritis pain while improving the overall angular speed of knee joints, as well as cardiovascular fitness.

As reported in the 2013 article of Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

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