Mend Physical Therapy Blog and Injury Information

Exercise Shown To Be More Effective Than Anti Inflammatories For Knee Arthritis

April 21, 2022

Knee arthritis is a common diagnosis affecting both sedentary and active middle to older age adults. Patients presenting to our Boulder and Lafayette Physical Therapy clinics frequently report knee stiffness, pain, lost mobility, and weakness affecting both their daily and recreational activities. Physical Therapy including manual therapy and exercise remains the gold standard of treatment for this diagnosis. Research in this area has shown these two treatments are able to delay or prevent the knee for a total knee replacement among patients diagnoses with knee arthritis. In addition to Physical Therapy, physicians may prescribe medications including anti inflammatories and opioids to manage the symptoms of this disease. A recent review of the research literature compared the effects of these medications to exercise.

Thorlund and colleagues in the Journal of Orthopedics and Sports Physical Therapy reviewed the medical evidence comparing the effectiveness of medication to exercise for patients with knee arthritis (2022). Authors included 13 trials of close to 1400 patients with knee arthritis who were treated with either anti inflammatories, opioids, or exercise interventions. They reported similar effects of anti inflammatories and opiates for knee arthritis pain, but larger effects for patients who were provided exercise interventions including aerobic, mobility, and strength training exercises. Authors concluded exercise therapy to be the best treatment for knee osteoarthritis.