Walking found to reduce pain and slow damage in arthritic knees
When it comes to the different ways of exercising the human body, walking is about as accessible as they come, and new research suggests it could be a powerful way to tackle osteoarthritis in the knees. A study examined the benefits of a regular saunter in people aged over 50, and found not only can it reduce pain, but it may also slow the damage that takes place in the joint.
The research was carried out by scientists at the Baylor College of Medicine and draws on a multi-year observational study of more than 1,200 subjects aged 50 or older with knee osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis. The subjects self-reported their walking habits, including the time spent walking and frequency, enabling the researchers to classify 73 percent of the cohort as "walkers" and the remainder as "non-walkers."
Those who walked for exercise had a 40 percent decrease in the likelihood of experiencing frequent knee pain. X-ray images were also used to assess the progression and severity of osteoarthritis in the knees, with the walkers less likely to experience medial joint space narrowing, a measure of arthritis. This suggests that a regular stroll could not just limit the pain associated with the condition, but apply the brakes to osteoarthritis in the knees.
"These findings are particularly useful for people who have radiographic evidence of osteoarthritis but don’t have pain every day in their knees,” said first author of the paper Dr. Grace Hsiao-Wei Lo.“This study supports the possibility that walking for exercise can help to prevent the onset of daily knee pain. It might also slow down the worsening of damage inside the joint from osteoarthritis.”
There is no cure or way of reversing osteoarthritis, and although treatments are available these predominantly focus on relieving pain and improving mobility, such as through medication and physical therapy. Exciting advances are being made in regenerative medicine that could one day see grafts help reinforce troubled joints and reduce inflammation, but studies such as this one demonstrate there are already useful tools at our disposal.
“People diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis should walk for exercise, particularly if they do not have daily knee pain,” advised Lo. "If you already have daily knee pain, there still might be a benefit, especially if you have the kind of arthritis where your knees are bow-legged.”
The research was published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatology.
Source: Baylor College of Medicine