Osteoarthritis is a disease of the whole joint, typified by structural alterations in bone, ligaments, and joints, that render them weak. In its severe form, it is extremely debilitating for patients, resulting in hindered mobility and the incidence of severe pain.
The problems are more severe in overweight patients as the knee has to bear the weight of the body. Medical professionals often suggest losing weight (or in other words, weight control), as an effective defense against its more debilitating effects, which manifest in aging patients. One way to reduce weight is through rehabilitative exercise. But how is that approach effective in helping osteoarthritis patients?
A team of researchers at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, in collaboration with health professionals from Pakistan, conducted research to assess the significance of rehabilitation exercises for osteoarthritis patients that had weight-bearing loads on their knees.
There is a gap in medical literature for utilizing the rehabilitation exercises of major muscle groups of lower limbs in non-weight bearing positions in overweight and knees of obese osteoarthritis patients."
Muhammad Tariq Rafiq, Study Lead Author and Professor, University of Malaya
Therefore, the team focused on the effects of rehabilitation exercises on the lower limbs on weight, functional strength, and exercise adherence in these patients.
The study included 2 groups (one control group and one rehabilitation group) 56 knee osteoarthritis patients with a BMI above 25 units aged between 45 and 60 years and knee radiographic score of 2 or 3 according to the Kellgren and Lawrence grading scale.
The patients in the rehabilitation group performed rehabilitation exercises of the lower limbs three times a week for 12 weeks. Each exercise session lasted 45–60 minutes. The patients in the CG adhered to general daily care instructions for a duration of 12 weeks.
General care instructions covered guidelines on mobility (avoidance of stair climbing and jogging) and reduction of body weight by healthy eating (avoiding eating fatty and sugary food). Information about each patient's vitals and exercise adherence was collected at after 12-weeks of the interventions.
The researchers noted that the patients in the rehabilitation group reported a statistically more significant improvement in functional strength and reduction in weight than the control group (p = <0.001). The same observation was made for adherence to general care instructions.
"This may be due to the effectiveness of exercises of the lower limbs in the rehabilitation group. Exercises of lower limbs may affect the strength of lower limb muscles.", notes Rafiq. "We see that home-based exercise intervention may be effective for relieving knee Osteoarthritis symptoms and increasing physical functioning." The authors have published their findings in Current Rheumatology Reviews.
Rafiq, M. T., et al. (2021) The role of rehabilitation exercises on weight, functional strength and exercise adherence in knee osteoarthritis patients. Current Rheumatology Reviews. doi.org/10.2174/1573397117666210719101551.