Can exercise therapy help treat hip arthritis?
Exercise therapy may be the best short-term approach to treating hip osteoarthritis, according to a new study.
Australian researchers reviewed 19 studies of water or land-based exercise therapy or manual therapy (joint manipulation, active stretching and massage), 10 of which were designed specifically for hip osteoarthritis.
Four studies found short-term benefits with water-based exercise compared to minimal pain management after three months, and six studies found similar short-term benefits for land-based exercise therapy.
“This study is very important in underlying the importance of incorporating physical activity in our daily routine,” says Dr. Sebastian Guman, anesthesiologist at the Pain Treatment Center at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Ill. “I am a firm believer in a multidisciplinary approach to pain management, and physical activity in the form of physical or aquatic therapy is one of the basis’ of this approach.”
Osteoarthritis is one of the most common joint disorders in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People who are older, obese, have previous joint injuries, overuse, weak muscles or certain genetic factors are most at risk of developing the disease.
The review only considered pain, not joint function, which may also improve with physical therapy, according to lead researcher Kay M. Crossly of La Trobe University in Bundoora, Australia.
There was no evidence of benefits in the medium or long term, up to one year after therapy, researchers said in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Manual therapy also didn’t appear to provide additional benefits on its own or in combination with exercise.
“The review refers to the pain improvement in the short term, but in my practice I also see a major improvement in functional capacity,” Dr. Guman says. “The patients are able to move better, have better transition from sitting to standing and walking. This improvement in functional capacity also decreases the risk of falling and having serious injuries.”
Researchers agreed that there are few well-designed trials testing the benefits, and that more research is needed.
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