Painful creaky knees? You might feel like popping a pill, but you’d be better off exercising.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting an estimated 10 per cent of men and 18 per cent of women over 60 years of age and occurs when the cartilage that cushions the ends of bones gradually thins.
Although the last 20 years have brought big breakthroughs in treatments for inflammatory arthritis (including rheumatoid), osteoarthritis has seen much slower progress. There are still no disease-modifying treatments, only symptom control, and the latest draft of NICE guidelines has recently downgraded long-term use of painkillers in favour of exercise, weight-management and behaviour change.
For years, the choreologist Marcus Ampe promoted special exercises to get rid of pain, instead of poisoning the body with painkillers. Before his retirement, he also gave special therapeutic classes to help people recover from accidents and from several body ailments.
A big problem is when people have a lot of pain, they often do not feel much for going to move more. But they have to go over that step. Crossing the threshold of the initial pain.
To move, is probably the opposite of what you want to do, and of what your osteoarthritis seems to be telling you, but the evidence is rock-solid. Exercise helps in multiple ways.
“It improves nutrition and blood flow to the joint, lines up the joints, strengthens muscles, improves stability and restores function,”
says Dr Benjamin Ellis, consultant rheumatologist and senior clinical advisor for Versus Arthritis. Avoiding activity because of osteoarthritis pain kicks off a vicious “deconditioning cycle”.
Marcus Ampe always promoted exercise but warned not to overdo it. Though he also was a certified Aerobics teacher, he always dis-advised ordinary people to do that sort of exercises. It is namely much better to do a proper balanced workout or to take Kounovsky, Pilates or social dancing or modern jazz classes.
He, like other experts, advises that any exercise is good, even walking or gardening.
“Whatever you enjoy, whatever you’re doing, do more,”
“A recent study found that just walking will reduce the pain from early knee osteoarthritis and also make it much less likely to progress – so it’s potentially preventative.”
The latest research suggests that paracetamol performs no better than a placebo for osteoarthritis, while strong and potentially addictive opioids bring more risk than benefits.
A lot of people seek refuge in medication but would do better to resort to herbs or phytotherapy and homoeopathy and a healthy schedule of exercises that will further help them move better and easier again.
> Please do find: Five ways to tackle the joint pain of arthritis