Occupational therapy gets people with osteoarthritis moving

Sep 29, 2008

Physical activity is the cornerstone of any healthy lifestyle – and especially for people with osteoarthritis as exercise helps maintain good joint health, manage their symptoms, and prevent functional decline. Osteoarthritis, however, often makes physical activity, such as exercise, and even performing daily activities, a challenge.

But an occupational therapist-led approach – called activity strategy training – could provide patients with knee and hip osteoarthritis the opportunity to lead more active lives and even improve their overall health, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of Michigan Health System.

In the pilot study, the researchers found that patients who engaged in activity strategy training along with regular exercise increased their physical activity, more so than those patients who only took part in exercise and health education sessions. Study results are now online and are set to appear in the October issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism.

"Occupational therapy is really the missing link in promoting wellness of people with hip and knee osteoarthritis," says study lead author Susan L. Murphy, Sc.D., OTR, assistant professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the U-M Medical School and Research Health Science Specialist at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System.

"Most people with osteoarthritis want to be active, but often find that there are personal or physical barriers in the way. For instance, people with osteoarthritis often deal with pain and fatigue, which makes engaging in regular physical activity more difficult. In addition, there are often barriers in people's homes and communities that make physical activity difficult," she continues.

For that reason, Murphy says the pilot study used activity strategy training in groups and in places – such as senior housing facilities – where barriers could be addressed and potential solutions discovered.

Taught by occupational therapists, this structured rehabilitation program is designed to educate patients about joint protection, proper body mechanics, activity pacing, and environmental barriers. For example, patients with joint pain caused by osteoarthritis learn techniques for walking around the house or outdoors, or even getting in and out of a car. For the pilot study, the activity strategy training included education, group discussion, a home visit, and demonstration and practice of techniques to facilitate activity.

Activity strategy training, however, is not commonly prescribed to patients with hip or knee osteoarthritis, a degenerative disease that causes the breakdown of the cartilage in joints. Most physical activity programs for these patients only offer structured exercise, which has been shown to have short-term positive effects on arthritis pain and physical disability. But these effects usually fade soon after participation in the program ends.

In this study, both groups participated in the same structured exercise program. However, only participants who received the activity strategy training were found to have increased the intensity of their physical activity at the end of the study compared to those who received health education.

While the results are promising, Murphy says more research needs to be conducted to replicate with larger groups and to examine long-term effects before this technique can be applied to patient care.

Regardless, Murphy encourages patients with hip or knee osteoarthritis to seek out opportunities now to enhance and expand their daily physical activity, and improve overall health behaviors.

"People with osteoarthritis tend to know more about surgical options, and less about how they can take an active role in promoting their own health and well-being," Murphy explains. "People with osteoarthritis need to be their own agents of change. They can do so much to manage symptoms and stave off functional decline caused by osteoarthritis just by being physically active. The bottom line is to find ways to help people create and maintain these healthy habits."

Source: University of Michigan

Explore further: Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New tool to help diagnose canine arthritis

Jun 04, 2013

Veterinary scientists at the University of Liverpool have developed a new tool to support clinicians in treatment programmes for osteoarthritis in dogs.

Rehabilitation within a day of knee replacement pays off

Mar 07, 2011

Starting rehabilitation sooner following knee arthroplasty surgery could pay dividends - for both patients and hospitals. Commencing physical therapy within 24 hours of surgery can improve pain, range of joint motion and ...

Treating the aging knee as an organ

Feb 14, 2011

The human body is made up of several organs composed of tissues that enable them to perform a particular function. The heart circulates blood; the brain is the micro-neuro center of the body; the lungs bring in oxygen and ...

Recommended for you

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

1 hour ago

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

US orders farms to report pig virus infections

Apr 18, 2014

The U.S. government is starting a new program to help monitor and possibly control the spread of a virus that has killed millions of pigs since showing up in the country last year.

Foreigner dies of MERS in Saudi

Apr 18, 2014

A foreigner has died after she contracted MERS in the Saudi capital, the health ministry said on announced Friday, bringing the nationwide death toll to 73.

Vietnam battles fatal measles outbreak

Apr 18, 2014

Vietnam is scrambling to contain a deadly outbreak of measles that has killed more than 100 people, mostly young children, and infected thousands more this year, the government said Friday.

New clues on tissue scarring in scleroderma

Apr 18, 2014

A discovery by Northwestern Medicine scientists could lead to potential new treatments for breaking the cycle of tissue scarring in people with scleroderma.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Study says we're over the hill at 24

(Medical Xpress)—It's a hard pill to swallow, but if you're over 24 years of age you've already reached your peak in terms of your cognitive motor performance, according to a new Simon Fraser University study.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.