RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in the U.S., with knee osteoarthritis affecting nearly 10 million adults. Although people tend to associate the condition with growing older, it's estimated that 10 to 15 percent of 35-year-old adults suffer from it. Fortunately for them, a new study published in Arthritis Care & Research finds that if you start combating the disease early enough—even if your knee pain hasn't been diagnosed as osteoarthritis yet—you could delay the worst of the symptoms for quite some time.
THE DETAILS: The study, which lasted for two years, involved 273 middle-aged adults between the ages of 35 and 64 who had knee pain. The participants were randomly divided into three groups: one that underwent strength training, another that participated in a "self-management" training program that taught them how to cope with pain and stressed the benefits of exercise and staying mobile, and a third that utilized both methods. While there was little difference in the effectiveness of each method, the researchers did find that all three groups saw improvement in knee osteoarthritis pain and symptoms, which is unusual, says lead author Patrick McKnight, PhD, professor in the psychology department at George Mason University. "Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease," he says. "We don't expect people to get better. We generally expect them not to get worse." But in his study, 65 to 70 percent of all participants, regardless of which group they were assigned to, saw a 26 percent improvement in functional abilities, such as climbing stairs and moving from sitting to walking, and 55 to 65 percent of them saw a 40 percent decrease in pain. "That's a very high percentage of people who showed clinically meaningful change," he says.
Read on to learn more about self-management of knee pain.