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Osteoarthritis: Self-Management May Be Most Effective In Early Stages

January 6, 2010
Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis and the second leading cause of disability in the United States, is the most prevalent chronic condition among women, affecting up to 45 percent by the age of 65. A variety of approaches can help preserve mobility, including strength-training exercise programs and self-management programs that give patients skills needed to manage on their own (these may include pain and stress management, relaxation and exercise); past studies have found value in both. New research looked at whether combining both approaches would be even more effective. Over 200 participants, all of whom had pain and disability due to knee pain on most days in one or both knees, were divided into three groups—one did strength training, one was trained in self-management and the third did both. Surprisingly, results of the 24-month trial involving showed no greater effects of doubling efforts; all 3 groups demonstrated improvements in physical function tests and decreased self-reported pain and disability. And actually the study group that participated in the self-management program, which educated participants and provided one-on-one treatment advice, achieved the highest compliance rates, sticking to their program the best. Given the higher rate of compliance in the self-management group, the researchers suggest that self-management may be a less intrusive and equally effective early treatment for knee OA. The CDC also recommends self-management activities to decrease pain, improve function, stay productive and lower health care costs, including self-management education programs such as the Arthritis Foundation Self Help Program (AFSHP), available at arthritis.org, to manage arthritis on a day-to-day basis. Details of this study are reported in the January 2010 issue of Arthritis Care & Research, a journal published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the American College of Rheumatology.