Breaking a Vicious Cycle

Published Online: Thursday, August 1, 2002

?As people feel more pain, they exercise less, which in the long term leads to muscle weakness and even more disability,? says Martin P.M. Steultjens, a scientist with the Netherlands Institute of Health Services Research in Utrecht. As reported in the July 2002 issue of
Arthritis and Rheumatism, Dr Steultjens is the lead author of the first study to document the commonsense assumption that the muscle weakness that results from inactivity increases the disability suffered by those with osteoarthritis of the knee.

The study found that as much as 25% of a patient?s disability could be traced to muscles that had weakened due to a lack of exercise.The weakened muscles caused patients? joints to become less stable and less able to bear their weight.

The major conclusion of the research was that patients and physicians must be proactive in creating a workable exercise plan if they want to stave off potentially severe muscle deterioration. The pain of exercise can be reduced with medication, but it may not be eliminated. Considering the alternative of increased disability, however, the gain may be well worth the pain.

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