Physical Therapy Exercise and Knee Osteoarthritis

Previously we wrote about the positive impacts of exercise on the body's tissues.  The benefits of exercise is based on the ability of your rehabilitation program to properly load and unload an injured tissue allowing it to remodel and heal.  The optimal amount of load is key with both ends of spectrum, over doing it and too much rest, causing equal amounts of harm and lost time.  Knee osteoarthritis is a common condition among older adults resulting in a substantial amount of disability and health care costs.  Many of these patients may seek out the services of an orthopedic surgeon for a total knee replacement, but conservative Physical Therapy treatments have been shown to delay or prevent the need for this costly, invasive replacement surgery.  

Physical Therapy interventions are designed to reduce pain, improve mobility and function by using hands on manual Physical Therapy interventions and exercise.  Exercise is a powerful component of any conservative treatment plan and should be tailored to meet the individual needs of the patient and their symptoms.  As we add strengthening into a patient's home exercise program we are impacting many of the bodies tissues and systems including bone, muscle, tendon, nerves, and the cartilage on top of the ends of long bones (femur, tibia) in the knee.

A recent article by Koli et al (Am J Sp Med. 2015) examined the impact of exercise on patients' with knee osteoarthritis (OA).  Specifically, the authors were interested in documenting the impact of exercise on cartilage growth and healing.  80 women with mild knee OA were placed in a progressive exercise program 3 times per week for 12 months.  Exercises included multi directional step and aerobic step exercises.  The women were assessed for baseline and 1 year knee function, aerobic and strength capabilities, and patellar cartilage.  

The authors noted progressive, high impact exercise programs provides stimulation to remodel and improve patellar cartilage in patients with mild knee OA.  At the 1 year follow up, thickness of the patellar cartilage had improved within the exercise group compared to controls.  This study adds to the available evidence on the positive effects of exercise on the ability of the body to heal injured tissues.  As we look for further solutions for injured cartilage, exercise remains an important component of any rehabilitation program.  To learn more about how exercise may improve your cartilage health contact the experts at Mend Physical Therapy.