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Osteoarthritis of the knee (and other joints)

Knee strengthening exercises

There has been a lot of talk in the media lately, about arthritis and exercising and the importance of exercising. This has not been a new discovery (as most patients who have seen me would testify to) however, there has been more research to back us up on this. Often with osteoarthritic joints there is pain associated with movement and use of the joints. This often sets up an avoidance pattern whereby the individual avoids using the joint. This leads to the muscles around the joint not being used which leads to the muscles weakening. Weak muscles then cannot provide the necessary support around the joint which causes more damage to the joint which causes more pain and around and around the spiral goes. This often leads to people seeking orthopaedic surgeon advice which may or may not lead to surgery.

The answer??? Strengthening exercises. I know pain is pain and our bodies avoid it at all costs however, we need to push the affected muscles surrounding the joints so that they can strengthen. There are ways to use the muscles initially with minimal impact on our joints and once the muscles strengthen the exercises are progressed so that the joints can cope. This may take time but in my experience with patience and persistence huge changes can be made. I have seen patients who have been earmarked for joint replacement surgery who have tried exercise first. This has lead them to postponing their surgery for years or even one lady I know is now 10 years down the track and still has not required surgery.

I am not against surgery at all, however, I do think trying conservative treatment first is a good idea. Even if surgery is required, if the muscles around the joint are strong post-surgery recovery will be much improved. Patients who have done the pre-surgery work find they are much more familiar with the exercises and therefore more confident with their post-surgery rehabilitation. I also find that these patients recover quicker.

Have I convinced everyone on the importance of exercising yet? I’ll continue to lecture, persuade and educate.

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Lena Juross

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