A therapy to get osteoarthritis patients moving

March 23, 2009 by  
Filed under ARTHRITIS

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gymnastPhysical exercise is essential in maintaining joint health and in managing symptoms of osteoarthritis. But it doesn’t feel like it, as many arthritis patients would attest, making performance of simple daily activities challenging, much less compliance with prescribed exercise routines.

But a new type of therapy, the so-called activity strategy training might just be the help that patients with osteoarthritis of the hip and knee.

This is based on a study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan Health System.

Taught by occupational therapists, this structured rehabilitation program is designed to educate patients about joint protection, proper body mechanics, activity pacing, and environmental barriers. For example, patients with joint pain caused by osteoarthritis learn techniques for walking around the house or outdoors, or even getting in and out of a car.

The study compared two strategies: the commonly prescribed regular exercise and health education sessions vs the activity strategy training (AST) plus regular exercise. The outcomes showed that AST was more effective in increasing and maintaining physical activity in osteoarthritis patients. The difference between the two strategies is probably that AST is more customized to the patients’ needs while structured exercise is not. Furthermore, AST addresses barriers to physical activity that may be specific to certain communities or environment, such as those found in senior homes, for example.

Osteoarthritis is “a degenerative disease that causes the breakdown of the cartilage in joints. Activity strategy training, however, is not commonly prescribed to patients with hip or knee osteoarthritis… Most physical activity programs for these patients only offer structured exercise, which has been shown to have short-term positive effects on arthritis pain and physical disability. But these effects usually fade soon after participation in the program ends.”

The researchers went on to urge osteoarthritis patients to take a proactive role in their therapy. According to lead author Susan L. Murphy

People with osteoarthritis need to be their own agents of change. They can do so much to manage symptoms and stave off functional decline caused by osteoarthritis just by being physically active. The bottom line is to find ways to help people create and maintain these healthy habits.”


Photo credit: stock.xchng

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