Physical Therapy for Knee Osteoarthritis

WABC—New York—March 1, 2007

Pills, shots, even surgery are treatments for osteoarthritis of the knee, one of the most common arthritis problems in the country.

Clarise Lowy has osteoarthritis in her right knee. Last year her symptoms drove her to the doctor.

Her prescription? Exercise.

It was actually specific physical therapy exercise to strengthen her weak leg muscles.

"The arthritis is painful and when you have pain in your joint, you limit your activity," Physical Therapist Lisa Konstantellis, from Hospital for Special Surgery, said. "And the more you limit your activity, the weaker you get."

These exercises target the quadriceps, the big muscle on the front of the thigh. It acts like a shock absorber to take pressure off damaged cartilage within the knee.

A recent study found that though exercise may not prevent worsening of the arthritis, patients developed stronger muscles and better function as a result.

When a joint like the knee hurts, patients try not to move it. That allows the surrounding muscle to get stiff, and that is where stretching comes in.

Clarise Lowy has been doing stretching for the hamstring muscles on the back of the thigh. Ms. Lowy's been coming here twice a week for about four weeks. She's been able to throw away her pain pills.

"I think if an individual has osteoarthritis of the knee, and experiencing pain and difficulty performing activity they need to do everyday, they should ask their physician for a referral for physical therapy," said Physical Therapist Lisa Konstantellis.

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