Exercise Reduces Pain of Arthritis in Older Adults

Exercise Reduces Pain of Arthritis in Older Adults

Older adults who suffer from arthritis may not feel like exercising, but a new study shows they would have less pain, fatigue and stiffness if they participated in a regular exercise program.

“The study adds to the growing body of evidence that exercise can help people with muscle and joint conditions,” said Sandra Goldsmith, director of Public and Patient Education at Hospital for Special Surgery (HHS) in New York City.

Image courtesy Hospital For Special Surgery

Image courtesy of Hospital for Special Surgery

Goldsmith and her colleagues at HHS studied over 200 adults who participated in various exercise programs at the hospital, including pilates, yoga, yoga-lates (a combination of yoga and pilates), t’ai chi and dance. Classes met once each week and were led by certified instructors.

The majority of participants in the exercise program were age 75 or older. Ninety-two percent of them were women.

The study found that after taking the classes, fewer participants reported a high level of muscle and joint pain (56% before the program started vs. 47% after completing the program). Eighty-three percent reported a reduction in stiffness, 82% said they felt their balance improved, and 67% said they experienced less fatigue as a result of taking part in the program.

They also reported statistically significant reductions in how much pain interfered with their general activities, ability to walk, mood, sleep and enjoyment of life. The greatest reduction in pain was reported by those who took t’ai chi.

“Our data indicate that hospital-based programs can play an important role in pain relief, improved quality of life and improved levels of physical activity in older individuals with musculoskeletal conditions,” Goldsmith said.

Up to 50 million adults in the U.S. have some type of arthritis or musculoskeletal condition that affects their mobility and quality of life.

“Often patients with musculoskeletal disease are more deconditioned than their disease-free counterparts. Strengthening the muscles around an arthritic joint has been shown to slow the progression of osteoarthritis and reduce pain,” said Linda Russell, MD, a rheumatologist and member of the Community Benefit & Services Committee of the Board of Trustees at Hospital for Special Surgery.

An earlier, similar study at HHS found that exercise can decrease pain, reduce the severity and frequency of falls, and improve the balance of people suffering from osteoarthritis. Exercise also improved their quality and enjoyment of life.

Authored by: Pat Anson, Editor

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Agreed exercise is not an alternative therapy, it should be used for all pain conditions. There are hundreds if not thousands of studies on exercise for chronic pain, and numerous systematic reviews showing the effectiveness for chronic pain. There are a couple of really nice large studies showing that exercise and physical activity reduce the risk for development of chronic pain. There is positive data for nearly every pain condition including fibromyalgia, back pain, neck pain, TMD, pelvic pain, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetic neuropathy, and many more.

There are a lot of types of exercise-aerobic, strengthening, motor control, reeducation, yoga, among others. It turns out that for chronic pain no one exercise is superior to another. Several studies have compared different types of exercise for chronic pain and show similar effects.

The problem is for some people it hurts initially so compliance is poor. Future research really needs to focus on improving compliance and to develop treatments to reduce the pain during the exercise program. As a pain researcher who studies exercise, a physical therapist, and a professor who teacher pain mechanisms and management I always suggest the best exercise is a program that the person will do. You also do not need to do every day. Many studies with positive effect have people exercising just 3 days per week. So try and get people to agree to every other day, 3days per week, and figure out what they like to do.

Stephen S. Rodrigues, MD

Exercise to assist in the treatment of arthritic pain is considered an “alternative pain therapy??”
My observation, ” when was exercise not a part of therapy?’
My next statement, “pills, chemicals and surgery are standard.”
Why did someone have to prove an already common everyday truth? Gee have the medical community forgot how we evolved and ascended into the 21 century?

I think I get it!
“It hurts when I move it or exercise.” Doc “so don’t move it or exercise.”
This is the catch 22 that most are in:
In a number of cases, adding in hands-on can break past the pain cycle to ignite healing.
In a few hands-on will aggravate and agitate, so the next set of tools that are needed are needles.

These are most of the safe and holistic options to reverse, treat or cure long-term pain or chronic pain category:
Myofascial Release Therapies. One can visualize all these therapies on a spectrum; Self care with Wellness, stress management, Work-Life Balance, Mind-Body-Spirit therapy, magnesium supplementation, stretching, aerobics, yoga, massage, traction or inversions, Rolfing, Active Tissue Release, John F. Barnes Myofascial Unwinding and Chiropractic adjustments.

If needed, therapy must be stepped-up to Acupuncture, Myofascial Acupuncture and all other various types, dry needling and Gunn-Intramuscular Stimulation. The most aggressive of the group are Travell/Simon hypodermic needling and various other Bio/Prolo/Neural hypodermic injections.

All exercise in not equal.
My verson of exercise falls along the lines of reprograming the muscles not ifting weights or power training.
You will have to establish a complete therapy package.
Once the pain density reaches a certain level, needles are the only tool that can peel off the layers of pain.
If a hands-on treatments do not consistently restore, you must move up to needles.
You will need magnesium.
You can not stop this therapy until you are >>80% restored.
Our healthcare system is a for profit model and you are the commodity, hold you providers responsible for your improvement and wellbeing.

Barriers of cost, confusion, access, bias, dogma, arrogance, ignorance and profits.