The last thing you might feel like doing in the aftermath of a knee OA procedure is to kickstart a workout programme, but two separate studies released last month pointed out that you should only sit on the sofa with your leg up for so long.
The first study – from Queen Mary University in London and published in the journal Osteoarthritis and Cartilage – has demonstrated that mechanical forces experienced by cells in joints during exercise prevent cartilage degradation, by suppressing the action of inflammatory molecules which cause osteoarthritis.
Squash the pain away
As the study points out, exercise – even the simple stuff, such as a brisk walk – ‘squashes’ the cartilage in joints such as the hip and knee. And this mechanical distortion is detected by the living cells in the cartilage, which then blocks the action of inflammatory molecules associated with conditions such as arthritis.
The researchers are hoping that these findings will help in the search for treatments for arthritis, which affects over three million people in the UK. And the researchers are even suggesting that the results may lead to a whole new therapeutic approach known as mechano-medicine, in which drugs simulate the effect of mechanical forces to prevent the damaging effects of inflammation and treat conditions such as arthritis.
Future complications? Walk them off
But what about the risks of agitating a post-op knee with exercise? Well, the other study – compiled by Northwestern University in Chicago – claims that there is no direct link between knee pain and daily walking, or other forms of low-intensity exercise. Furthermore, people with knee OA who undertook less than ten minutes of brisk walking per day are boosting their chances of preventing disability in later life.
The study, which was published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, involved 1,500 people between the ages of 49 and 83 from the rolls of America’s Osteoarthritis Initiative, who were given accelerometers and tracked between 2008 and 2014. And according to their findings, the research team found that those who managed less than ten minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity per day found it easier to perform daily tasks than those who lived a more sedentary lifestyle.
When the exercise levels were raised a notch, the findings were even more positive: participants who managed an hour of moderate-to-vigorous activity per day had an 85% reduced risk of mobility disability – which was defined by the researchers as being unable to safely cross the street in time – and a 45% reduction of daily living disability, which is defined as having difficulty in bathing and dressing without help.
Speaking as someone affected by knee arthritis, I can vouch for the benefits of exercise as a coping mechanism, as it has definitely helped my knee. After a year of strength training, I’ve got to the point where I have been able to run 4K – with minimal aftereffects, I might add. Given that I was on the point of undergoing knee replacement prior to this, I feel the results are pretty impressive – and if you’re in the same boat as me, I’d advise you to embrace an exercise regime under the guidance of your doctor or knee specialist.