Muscle strengthening exercises lead to various improvements in women with knee osteoarthritis

Exercise often prescribed for this condition due to limited mobility and muscle weakness
Osteoarthritis (OA), a condition in which the protective cartilage in joints wears away, is the most common musculoskeletal disease (affecting muscles or bones) in the world. Approximately 20% of the global population suffers from OA, and women are more affected by knee OA than men. The wearing away of cartilage in knee OA leads to many negative effects, including pain and limited mobility in the majority of patients. Many others experience weakness in the muscles of the front thigh (quadriceps) and poor hip performance, which can make physical functioning more difficult. For these reasons, exercise programs are often recommended. Progressive resistance exercise is one strategy that includes a gradual increase in weight load, but it has not yet been fully evaluated for these patients. Therefore, a powerful study called a randomized-controlled trial (RCT) was conducted to better understand the effects of this exercise program in women with knee OA.

Moderately sized sample randomly divided into two groups
Women with knee OA and pain between 3-8 on a 10-point scale were recruited, 60 of which fit the inclusion criteria and were used. They were then randomly divided into either the experimental or the control group. Subjects in the experimental group underwent a progressive resistance exercise program given by a physical therapist, consisting of four different exercises, performed twice a week for 12 weeks. The control group remained on the waiting list but received the same treatment at the study’s conclusion. All participants were evaluated at the start of the study, and then 45 and 90 days later for pain, function, quality of life (QoL), walking distance and strength.

Exercise program results in numerous beneficial effects

Results showed that the progressive resistance exercise program led to improvements in pain, function, strength and some aspects of QoL in the experimental group beginning in the sixth week of treatment. It was also found that the experimental group continued to improve until the end of the study, and they took significantly less medications than the control group. Based on these findings, it appears progressive resistance exercises can lead to significant benefits for women with knee OA, and their inclusion should thus be considered when creating a rehabilitation program for them.

Summarized by Greg Gargiulo
-As reported in the July ’14 edition of Clinical Rehabilitation