Osteoarthritis :: Exercise therapy may aid hip arthritis – osteoarthritis

Strength training may help ease the pain and immobility caused by hip arthritis, a new study suggests.

Researchers in The Netherlands found that a supervised exercise program brought some relief to older adults hobbled by hip osteoarthritis, the wear-and-tear form of arthritis in which the cartilage cushioning the ends of bones breaks down over time.

This joint deterioration leads to pain, stiffness and limited mobility, and the goal of exercise therapy is to improve stability and range of motion in the joints while strengthening the surrounding muscles.

But while the hip is one of the most common sites for arthritis to arise, it’s unclear how well exercise therapy works for the condition. In contrast to arthritis of the knee, for which there is good evidence, little research has gone toward using exercise for hip arthritis.

One reason may be that, compared with the knee, exercises that target the hip are “less easily developed” and may require special equipment, according to Erwin Tak, a researcher with TNO Quality of Life in Leiden and the lead author of the new study.

For their study, Tak and his colleagues randomly assigned 109 men and women age 55 and older to either an exercise group or a non-exercising “control” group. Those in the exercise group had supervised strength-training sessions one hour per week, and were given lower-body exercises they could do at home.

At the end of the 8-week program, the exercisers reported less pain than they had at the study’s outset, and the relief lasted — though it did wane — for another 3 months. In contrast, men and women who didn’t exercise had greater pain at the 3-month mark than they previously had.

The exercisers’ hip function also improved, although this benefit did not last for the long term.

The findings, Tak told Reuters Health, give some evidence that exercise can help manage hip arthritis, but more studies, over a longer time frame, are needed.

Still, the researcher noted, what evidence there is largely “points in the direction” that exercise is a useful therapy for hip arthritis. And staying active, Tak added, is important for preventing the condition from causing significant pain and limitations in the first place, and for maintaining overall good health.

For people whose hip arthritis is already causing troublesome symptoms, supervised exercise therapy is necessary, according to Tak.

“At the end of such a program,” he said, “people are very well capable of exercising on their own.”

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