Physical Activity as Effective Pain Relief for Arthritis: Making National Headlines

in News Feed, Winter 2014 Newsletter
February 26th, 2014

Dr. David Felson, Chief, Boston University Clinical Epidemiology Research and Training Unit, and Director of ENACT’s Doctoral Training Program, and internationally recognized for excellence in arthritis research, was featured in an interview that recently aired on National Public Radio (NPR). Dr. Felson discussed the evidence regarding use of glucosamine and chondroitin supplements for pain reduction in people with osteoarthritis.

While previous studies provided initial support for the notion that glucosamine and chondroitin might reduce the pain associated with osteoarthritis, results from a clinical trial show no difference between persons who were given glucosamine and chondroitin and those receiving a placebo control.  In fact, both groups showed similar results – approximately 60 percent of persons with arthritis showed a 20 percent reduction in pain.

As Dr. David Felson explained, the nutritional supplement “didn’t relieve pain any better than placebo. It basically didn’t have any effect.”

Dr. Patience White, MD, MA, a rheumatologist, Vice President of Public Health Policy and Advocacy for the Arthritis Foundation, and an ENACT advisory board member, also participated in the NPR interview.  Dr. White noted that losing weight and engaging in exercise may be a more effective treatment for osteoarthritis pain. “It’s quite striking,” notes Dr. White, “if you lose only five pounds, you’re talking about the equivalent of 20 pounds [less stress] across those knees, so you can imagine it would make quite a difference.”

Dr. Felson noted that persons who experience a reduction in pain when taking glucosamine and chondroitin could continue taking them, but agreed with Dr. White regarding the importance of exercise. “Pretty much any type of exercise seems to reduce pain and increase flexibility,” said Felson. “There have been a variety of different exercise studies which have tried everything from water aerobics to walking to muscle strengthening, and they all seem to work.”

The importance of increasing activity as a strategy for managing arthritis is central to ENACT’s mission.  Results from the BOOST study, which investigates innovative methods to encourage adherence to exercise programs, will be available soon!

The complete NPR interview with Drs. Felson and White is available here.


Story by Ammarah Usmani

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