Osteoarthritis is a condition categorised by degeneration of the cartilage around joints leading to stiffness, swelling, reduced mobility and pain. The symptoms associated with the condition can have a significant impact on an individual’s quality of life having an influence on every daily activity undertaken. It is therefore of great importance to understand how to make lifestyle adaptations, if desired, in order to reduce the severity of symptoms and enhance quality of life.
The primary focus for most individuals diagnosed with the condition is to reduce pain around the joints. Many fear that by participating in activity they will exacerbate pain and therefore many choose to abstain from regular activity. Activity may induce short term discomfort, however, there is a reduction in chronic pain with increased activity levels in most individuals. In overweight or obese populations, weight loss may have the greatest impact when it comes to reducing pain.
A study published in Arthritis and Rheumatism (Messier et al, 2004) took 316 individuals and separated them into 4 groups; a healthy lifestyle group, a diet only group, an exercise only group and an exercise and diet group. The study measured a host of parameters including tests to analyse physical capacity however the primary focus was on pain associated with the condition. The study looked to identify what was the most effective way to reduce pain.
After the 18 month randomized controlled trial, findings demonstrated that although exercise had the greatest influence on parameters associated with physical capacity, the reduction in pain was greater in the diet group when compared with the exercise only and healthy lifestyle groups. Suggesting that a reduction in weight has a large impact in overweight individuals diagnosed with osteoarthritis.
As expected however, the exercise and diet group outperformed the other groups in all measures. Therefore those diagnosed would be advised to focus on positive adaptations to both their nutritional intake and their activity levels.
These findings would suggest that for those diagnosed with osteoarthritis implementing a marginal calorie deficit in order to elicit weight loss would be of most benefit when attempting to reduce the severity of pain. However if an individual was looking to improve their ability to remain independent, active and able to engage in daily activity then increasing activity levels comes out on top every time. Best of all would be to utilise healthy nutritional choices and an increase in activity levels to create weight loss and reap all the associated benefits.
Remember as always check with a medical professional before making any major lifestyle adaptations.
Jack Barton (Researcher, Rescon Ltd)
Messier, S. P., Loeser, R. F., Miller, G. D., Morgan, T. M., Rejeski, W. J., et al. (2004). Exercise and dietary weight loss in overweight and obese older adults with knee osteoarthritis: the Arthritis, Diet, and Activity Promotion Trial. Arthritis & Rheumatism, 50(5), 1501-1510.