The pain-relieving qualities of exercise in knee osteoarthritis

This 2013 review published by The National Library of Medicine states that “current evidence strongly supports exercise as a pain-relieving option in patients with knee OA.”


The purpose of this review article is to explore the role of therapeutic exercise in managing the pain associated with knee osteoarthritis (OA). Therapeutic exercise is often recommended as a first-line conservative treatment for knee OA, and current evidence supports exercise as an effective pain-relieving intervention. We explore the current state of evidence for exercise as a pain-relieving intervention for knee OA. Next, the mechanisms by which knee OA pain occurs and the potential ways in which exercise may act on those mechanisms are discussed. Clinical applicability and future research directions are suggested. Although evidence demonstrates that exercise reduces knee OA pain, optimal exercise mode and dosage have not been determined. In addition, it is not clearly understood whether exercise provides pain relief via peripheral or central mechanisms or a combination of both. Published clinical trials have explored a variety of interventions, but these interventions have not been specifically designed to target pain pathways. Current evidence strongly supports exercise as a pain-relieving option for those with knee OA. Future research needs to illuminate the mechanisms by which exercise reduces the pain associated with knee OA and the development of therapeutic exercise interventions to specifically target these mechanisms.

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