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Treating joint pain with physical activity, self-management programs

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Many of us, myself included, have been told it's best to put fitness routines on hold and take it easy when faced with joint pain. But now it seems sitting on the couch and waiting for the pain to dissipate may not be the most effective treatment, especially when the diagnosis is osteoarthritis. As Stanford's Kate Lorig, DrPH, comments today in the Wall Street Journal, "The most dangerous exercise you can do when you have arthritis is none."

More from the article:

Studies have shown that weight loss, combined with exercises aimed at improving joint function and building up muscles that support the joints, can significantly improve patients' health and quality of life compared with medication alone.

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Even mild exercise can be painful for osteoarthritis patients. But with time, doctors say, the benefits accumulate as reduced pain and greater mobility. Strengthening the muscles around the knees or hip can help support the joints and take over some of the shock-absorbing functions played by cartilage, according to Harvard Medical School experts. Stronger muscles can also hold the joints in the most functional and least painful position. Regular activity can also replenish lubrication to the cartilage of the joint to reduce stiffness and pain. And aerobic activity such as swimming that doesn't put heavy stress on the hips, knees and spine can reduce inflammation in the joints, as well as improving overall fitness and weight control.

Self-management programs featuring exercise classes, weight management and other services, such as those provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, can help patients reduce pain and disability. And, as mentioned in the Health Blog, the National Council on Aging also offers online courses to assist individuals in managing their condition:

The NCOA licensed a program called Better Choices, Better Health from Stanford University - which developed many of the self-management programs for chronic diseases now being used in the U.S. The online program is for now being offered free in seven states to those with arthritis and other chronic diseases.

Photo credit UNC - CFC - USFK
Previously: Free self-management program offered to people with chronic illness and Lawmaker proposes Medi-Cal coverage of Stanford chronic-disease program

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