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Resistance training program beneficial for hand osteoarthritis

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Resistance strength training could be used to help treat the pain associated with osteoarthritis in the hands, new research has revealed.

Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, is caused by joint cartilage being broken down over a period of time. Cartilage is present at the end of bones and helps enable joint movement without pain. Osteoarthritis causes this cartilage to thin and become more irregular, resulting in joint pain and stiffness. It is a disease that becomes more common with age and tends to affect the hands, knees, hips and spine.

The benefits of using exercise therapy to help ease the pain of osteoarthritis in the hips and knees has been the subject of a number of studies. However, few studies have focused on the benefits such exercise could have on hands.

This latest study was conducted by a research team at the Universidade Federal de São Paulo in Brazil and assesses the effectiveness of resistance strength training for dealing with the pain, function and strength of people suffering with hand osteoarthritis.

The researchers followed 60 people who had received a diagnosis of osteoarthritis in their hands at least 12 months ago. The participants were divided into two groups and were given advice about joint protection and energy conservation. The first group was then asked to follow a progressive resistance exercise program targeting small muscles in the hands and fingers, while no further instructions were given to the second group.

The participants were evaluated three times during the course of the study: at the start, after six weeks, and after 12 weeks (when the study ended). These evaluations measured pain, disability, joint stiffness, grip strength, and pinch strength. With some exceptions, both groups had similar results at the start of the study. However, by the end of the study the group who had performed exercises displayed better function, less pain and were more satisfied with their treatment than the group who had not.

Heading up the research team, Michele Nery explained: “This study shows that progressive strength exercise can improve some aspects of hand osteoarthritis, such as pain and function.”

She continued: “We believe this can be an option for the treatment of hand osteoarthritis patients, and they should talk to their physicians about it.”