Exercise Is Medicine for Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) is one of the most common forms of joint disease and is the leading cause of pain in older people. The risks associated with joint pain is a reduction in physical activity and walking which has poor outcomes for their future well-being and overall mental health. As a result getting on top of OA early is the best way to reduce pain and encourage mobility and independence in the individual for longer!

Medication for relief is frequently prescribed to reduce pain and improve the physical function of people living with OA. Commonly paracetamol (Panadol) is used which is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDs). Unfortunately like with most medications there are complications associated with the use of NSAIDs. Most commonly patients report gastrointestinal or cardiovascular complications and further complications are seen in older individuals with comorbidities.

In the past is has been unclear whether exercise has an analgesic effect equivalent to that given from analgesics e.g. Paracetamol. Modern research is investigating the efficacy between exercise and Paracetamol with respect to reducing pain and improving function. Exciting new research has proven that the affects of exercise on knee pain were similar to the effects of the analgesics and with none of the harmful side effects![1]

So what exercise is good for my knee pain?

If you are over the age of 60 or have had diagnostic imaging or clinical assessment confirming OA in your joints then it can be hard to know where to start.

The goal of joint health when we age is strengthening the surrounding muscles and tissues to offload pressure and reduce weight being absorbed through the joint itself. Resistance training involving weights or resistance bands encourages muscular growth as well as improvements in bone health. Considering lower impact exercise such as gym classes, reformer pilates, swimming or cycling can reduce the pressure on the joints compared to running and HITT style classes, depending on your levels of function and pain. The main goal is picking an exercise that you will stick with and you enjoy!

If you do not know where to start on your exercise journey or have recently been diagnosed with OA in your joints then making an exercise plan with a Sydney Physio is a great place to start. This will allow for a program to be designed specifically for you and your levels of function, ability and pain.



[1] Weng Q, Goh S, Wu J, et al. Comparative efficacy of exercise therapy and oral non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and paracetamol for knee or hip osteoarthritis: a network meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. British Journal of Sports Medicine Published Online First: 02 January 2023. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2022-105898

Bend + Mend

About Bend + Mend

Bend + Mend has been providing Sydney’s CBD with Physiotherapy and Pilates services since 2003. We have 4 great locations in Martin Place, Barangaroo, Darling Park and Circular Quay, all with private rooms and specialised one-on-one care. We also have Sydney CBD’s best-loved Physios who have helped over 10,000 people recover from pain and injury.

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