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Knee OA: pain not linked to activity levels

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People with osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee should be encouraged to exercise more, a new study suggests.

Pain is often said to be a barrier to physical activity, but the study of 59 individuals with mild-to-moderate symptomatic knee osteoarthritis found no association between pain and daily walking levels.

The researchers gathered data on the participants’ average steps per day taken over at least three days, measured every three months for up to three years. Pain was measured using two patient-administered questionnaires.

Findings published in Arthritis Care & Research suggest that alleviating pain is not, in itself, likely to increase physical activity levels in people with knee OA.

Although managing pain is an important goal, strategies to increase physical activity should focus on overcoming other barriers, such as lack of knowledge, motivation, and overall sedentary lifestyle, the researchers said.

UK charity Versus Arthritis also stresses the importance of staying active and keeping your joints moving if you have knee OA.

Some people may worry that being active will make the pain in their knee or the arthritis itself worse, but the right exercise will actually improve symptoms and strengthen the knee. Not doing enough physical activity will make your knees more painful and stiff, the charity explains.

“Key problems faced by people with knee osteoarthritis include pain and inactivity,” said Dr. Monica Maly of the University of Waterloo, senior author of the new study.

“Pain management must be a treatment priority — but it is also crucial that we purposefully encourage physical activity to promote health and wellbeing for those living with this disease.”