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Osteoarthritis patients experience benefits from exercise

Common condition is one of the leading causes of disability

Osteoarthritis of the knee is a common condition in which cartilage that protects the knee gradually wears away. This causes the bones in the knee to rub against one another and leads to pain, which can make it difficult to function and complete certain activities normally. In fact, knee osteoarthritis is one of the leading causes of disability when it comes to walking, climbing stairs and housekeeping. There is currently no known cure for knee osteoarthritis, but therapy that focuses on different types of exercise has the potential to significantly help patients with the condition. Various types of exercise therapy have been found to increase strength, which can reduce pain and improve physical function. The increased fitness from exercise therapy can also improve the quality of patients' lives and allow them to perform more daily activities. Though research has shown that exercise therapy is beneficial for patients with knee osteoarthritis, the last time a review was performed was 2008, which means an updated review is needed. For this reason, a powerful study called a systematic review was performed to identify all the best medical literature on exercise therapy for knee osteoarthritis. This review was followed by a meta-analysis, which analyzes each of the studies found in the systematic review in detail in order to identify trends.

Five medical databases searched to acquire relevant data

In order to identify literature for the systematic review, five major medical databases were searched for studies on exercise therapy for knee osteoarthritis. The only types of studies accepted were randomized-controlled trials (RCTs) that compared some form of land-based exercise therapy with a group that did not engage in any exercise. An RCT is the most powerful type of individual study and involves a group of patients being randomly assigned to different groups of treatment. This search led to 54 RCTs fitting the criteria and being accepted for the systematic review. These 54 RCTs provided information on 5,562 different patients and investigated the effects of exercise therapy on both pain and physical function in patients with knee osteoarthritis. Once collected, all RCTs were then analyzed to determine the actual effectiveness of exercise therapy.

Exercise therapy found to reduce pain, improve quality of life and improve function

Overall, the conclusions of the meta-analysis supported the use of exercise therapy as a treatment for knee osteoarthritis. This was based on the fact that there was evidence of high quality that showed land-based exercise therapy can reduce knee pain and improve the quality of life in patients with knee osteoarthritis for 2-6 months. There was also evidence of moderate quality that showed land-based exercise therapy can improve function in these patients. The effectiveness of exercise on pain and function was also found to increase with the number of face-to-face visits with a medical professional, which may be due to their ability to further guide patients on the best type of exercise or physical activity. Based on these findings, it appears that any type of exercise program that is performed on a regular basis and closely monitored by a medical professional can reduce pain and improve the quality of life and physical function in patients with knee osteoarthritis. If you have knee osteoarthritis, you should, therefore, consult with your doctor or physical therapist to figure out the type and amount of exercise that is best for you in order to help you improve.

-As reported in the September '15 issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine

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