Harvard Health Letter

News briefs: Effective relief for hip and knee arthritis pain

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Think you shouldn't exercise because of your knee or hip osteoarthritis? You might want to think again, if the arthritis is mild to moderate. A new study finds that your best bet for pain relief may be strengthening and flexibility exercises. In an analysis of 60 randomized trails, published Sept. 20, 2013, in BMJ, researchers concluded that strengthening and flexibility exercises, done on land and in water, significantly reduced pain and also improved physical function. It's no surprise to Dr. Don Reilly, assistant clinical professor of orthopedic surgery at Harvard Medical School. "When you do repetitive activities, even with minimal force, it pumps some of the joint lubricant called synovial fluid into the cartilage, which keeps the cartilage healthy. Also, when you move a joint you build up a synovial fluid layer between the two moving parts, which helps decrease the friction in the joint," explains Dr. Reilly. He also recommends weight loss, because it decreases the amount of force placed on the joints. He cautions, however, that people with severe arthritis do only gentle exercise to increase the range of motion, as anything more strenuous will make pain worse.