5 Exercises for Osteoarthritis

5 Exercises for Osteoarthritis

When Osteoarthritis (OA) sufferers experience stiffness and discomfort in their joints, exercise may be the last thing on their minds. In fact, OA is the leading cause for disability in older adults. Yet, there is compelling evidence that regular exercise can actually help patients manage the pain associated with the disease. One reason is that it helps aid in weight management, which is crucial to minimizing joint strain. Additionally, exercise can reduce OA symptoms, improve functionality, and preserve range of motion.

With that said, exercising to manage OA without causing further discomfort proves to be challenging. For many patients, the solution lies in selecting low-impact exercises that won’t overwhelm joints and cartilage which have already been compromised. Here are some of the best types of physical activity you can incorporate into your care regimen for effective pain management:

Walking

One of the healthiest exercises of all, walking requires no equipment and can be done either indoors on a treadmill or outside. For minimized impact, take shorter strides and hold a pace at which you can maintain a conversation comfortably. If you have been sedentary for some time, build up the lengths of your walks in five-minute increments. The Arthritis Foundation recommends performing moderate-intensity aerobic exercise for 150 minutes weekly (30 minutes of exercise, 5 days a week).

Swimming

If you’re seeking a full-body cardio workout to really get your heart pumping without straining joints, there’s no better exercise than swimming. Beyond doing laps, aquatic exercises in general are beneficial because the buoyancy of the water offsets the weight placed on the joints. Consider taking a pool aerobics class led by an instructor, or head to your local gym to try some solo activities like water walking.

Range of Motion Exercises

Slow, steady range of motion exercises are excellent ways to promote flexibility. When combined with cardiovascular exercises, these exercises can also strengthen muscles and connective tissue. Wall squats, knee extensions, and leg lifts are just a few ways to keep the lower body limber. For the upper body, consider arm circles and overhead reaches to stay flexible throughout the shoulders and back.

Stretching or Yoga

Stretching can help to alleviate pain and stiffness while increasing flexibility and lowering stress. Follow-along yoga videos and classes are ideal because they offer guided routines so participants can ensure they’re completing the stretches correctly. Poses can be modified to accommodate varying degrees of ability, and practicing certain routines regularly can even help to reduce inflammation across all skill levels.

Cycling

Like swimming, cycling is a low-impact aerobic exercise which can aid in weight management. Indoor stationary cycling is one popular way to maintain fitness year-round, while outdoor cycling on flat terrain may also be a good option for OA sufferers.

While exercise has its advantages for OA patients, it’s important to take note of any discomfort you experience during or after an activity. If you notice increasing pain, stop and talk to your doctor. Medical experts can recommend a routine tailored to your needs, which may include exercises performed under the supervision of a physical therapist.

Bone Marrow Derived Stem Cells Show Promise for Treating Osteoarthritis

Bone Marrow Derived Stem Cells Show Promise for Treating Osteoarthritis

In a review published in Stem Cell Research & Therapy, Gupta et al. describe the latest advances in the use of bone marrow derived stem cells to treat osteoarthritis. These cells are promising because of their ability to treat the degeneration of cartilage that occurs in the disease. When connective tissue degenerates, natural regeneration is highly limited because there is not a strong presence of vasculature within that tissue. Thus, interventions to deal with the effects of osteoarthritis are needed.

Historically, non-stem cell treatments have been used in attempts to treat cartilage degeneration. Physical therapy, pharmaceuticals, and surgical interventions have all been largely employed. For mild cases of osteoarthritis, combinations of physical therapy and pharmaceuticals have been used to manage pain and minimize inflammation. Unfortunately, because the disease is progressive, this type of approach is only effective in the short-term.

Eventually, steroids or hyaluronic acid are generally used to treat osteoarthritis. The impact of these more aggressive treatments, however, is debated and does not appear to be consistent across patient populations. Once osteoarthritis reaches the advanced stage, joint replacement is the only option for relief.

The use of cell-based therapies to treat osteoarthritis is not a new idea. Cultured autologous chondrocytes have been shown to successfully treat cartilage degeneration for over 15 years. The downsides to this approach are that it is invasive, the positive effects are likely temporary, and there has not been sufficient research conducted to fully understand how well the technique works and how to optimize it.

Bone marrow derived stem cells have the potential to carry the same success rate as the cell-based therapies that have long been used to treat osteoarthritis while also overcoming the limitations of those therapies. There are several advantages of the application of bone marrow derived stem cells in the treatment of cartilage degeneration.

First, these particular cells can be easily isolated. Second, they can significantly expand in culture before being used therapeutically. Third, they have modulatory properties that enable them to reduce inflammation, which is a critical factor in cartilage degeneration. Finally, they secrete factors that have the potential to both prevent further degeneration and facilitate regeneration.

Given the number of reasons that bone derived stem cells should theoretically improve upon current methods for treating the cartilage degeneration that occurs in osteoarthritis, more research will likely be conducted to decipher whether these cells do indeed provide benefits that other treatment options do not. In the case that these cells continue to appear promising for osteoarthritis treatment, research will likely also aim at determining the best protocols for using these cells to ensure the best outcomes for osteoarthritis patients.

 

To find out more about the new alternative way to manage the symptoms of Osteoarthritis, click here.

 

Reference:

Gupta, PK, Das, AK, Chullikana, A, & Majumdar, A. (2012). Mesenchymal stem cells for cartilage repair in osteoarthritis. Stem Cell Research & Therapy, 3, 25-34.

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