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A recent scientific study followed people between 54 and 65 years old with knee osteoarthritis, who had not received injections during the previous 3 months. The group of 55 adults was randomly divided into an exercise group and a non-exercise group.
The individuals in the exercise group performed static low-angle squats twice a day. Standing with their feet and knees shoulder-width apart, they bent their knees to maintain a squat position, decreasing the depth of their squat to avoid experiencing pain.
The joint fluid inside their knees was tested for a chemical (BMP-7) that correlates with the severity of knee osteoarthritis. (More of this chemical means the knee osteoarthritis is more severe.) After one year, the people in the exercise group had less knee pain and less of this chemical present in their knees.
Read the full research article, by clicking here.
"Static Low-Angle Squatting Reduces the Intra-Articular Inflammatory Cytokines and Improves the Performance of Patients with Knee Osteoarthritis"
Zhao et al. 2019. Biomedical Research International.
This study indicates that exercise that involves tightening muscles and holding a particular position can decrease pain and irritation from knee osteoarthritis. [Learn about another example of this type of exercise by watching this video.]
The exercisers were very committed during the two year duration of this study, and how much they were able to do without knee pain improved. What is less obvious from the article is if the exercise was gradually made more difficult by squatting deeper, holding the position longer, or completing it more frequently.
Regardless of the report's limitations, this research supports exercise as an effective way to decrease the severity of knee osteoarthritis. Moreover, it indicates that exercise does not need to cause pain to create improvement. Beneficial exercise should not cause joint pain.
Because it better simulates my client's desired activities, I typically prescribe dynamic squatting (moving squats) rather than static squatting (holding a squat position). I begin by determining each client's Squat Load Tolerance. (Read more about Squat Load Tolerance here.)
Squat Load Tolerance is a measurement that indicates what amount of force the knee joint accepts without pain. Like the research above, I recommend performing exercises that avoid pain. However, the exercises I prescribe also include movements that better replicate a person's desired activities. The right type and amount of exercise increases the knee joint strength and allows my clients to return to their desired activities without pain.
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