New Clinical Trial Tests Whether Exercising Arms Can Relieve Knee Pain
Researchers at the University of Texas at El Paso are conducting a clinical trial to test the theory that exercising the arms can alleviate knee pain in individuals with osteoarthritis. The trial, set to finish in 2025, will involve 60 men and women who experience frequent knee pain due to wear and tear. Participants will engage in different exercises to determine which provides the most relief.
Previous small studies have suggested that arm cycling may be more effective than walking on a treadmill for soothing knee pain. Regular, moderate exercise is known to be beneficial for managing arthritic knee pain as it strengthens the muscles around the joint and reduces pressure on the damaged area. However, activities like walking or jogging can increase the load on the knee, making it difficult for some individuals to engage in exercise.
According to Uzo Ehiogu, a consultant physiotherapist at the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital in Birmingham, there is no obvious mechanism by which exercising the arms could target knee pain. However, he suggests that patients may feel fitter, more confident, and more mobile after a 20-minute arm workout, which could then reduce the sensation of pain in the knees.
While the concept of exercising one limb to benefit another may seem unlikely, recent evidence suggests that it is possible. A study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports found that contracting the muscles in one arm while keeping the other arm still resulted in minimal muscle loss in the immobile arm. This effect, known as muscle cross education, is routinely used in sports medicine to prevent muscle loss during injury.
The exact mechanisms behind muscle cross education are not fully understood. One theory suggests that it is a “spillover” effect, where intense exercise in one limb generates new connections between the brain and the injured limb. To achieve the best results, it is important to work the good limb harder than usual by increasing resistance.
Mirror therapy is another example of how exercising one limb can benefit another. In stroke patients with paralysis on one side, mirror therapy involves placing the damaged arm inside a box with a mirror on the outside. The patient then performs exercises with the good arm while watching the reflection in the mirror, tricking the brain into thinking it is working the damaged arm and improving connections with nerves and muscle fibers.
Mirror therapy has shown promising results in stroke care, improving movement in paralyzed limbs enough for patients to carry out daily activities. It has also been found to be beneficial for women with limited shoulder function after breast cancer surgery or radiotherapy. In a study conducted by Fudan University in China, participants who performed exercises with their non-affected arm while looking at it in a mirror had better range of movement in the affected arm after eight weeks.
The ongoing clinical trial at the University of Texas at El Paso aims to replicate previous findings and provide further evidence on the effectiveness of arm exercise for alleviating knee pain in individuals with osteoarthritis. If successful, this innovative approach could offer a new way to manage chronic conditions and improve quality of life for patients.
Original Story at www.dailymail.co.uk – 2023-11-06 20:21:41