18 Sep 2009 12:02:00.000
Once we reach the age of 55 there’s a 25 per cent chance that we will be suffering from bad knees. Of that 25 per cent, half will experience some sort of associated disability, such as difficulty carrying out everyday activities, and most of us will have reached for the painkillers.
However, experts at The University of Nottingham have just completed one of the largest and longest running studies of its kind which backs up international recommendations emphasising the importance of lifestyle interventions to ease those painful knees.
Tony Avery, Professor of Primary Care in the School of Community Health Sciences, said: “As a GP I often see patients with knee pain and it can really affect quality of life particularly when people find they cannot do their usual work, home or leisure activities. Often patients have to take drugs to help control the pain and yet these don’t always work and sometimes have serious side effects.”
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With funding of over £400,000 from the Arthritis Research Campaign researchers selected 389 patients from five general practices in Nottingham, to take part in the two year research project which has been published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
Participants were chosen if they were overweight and had reported that they were suffering from knee pain. They were randomised into four groups: one group was given an exercise programme aimed at strengthening the muscles around the knee; another group took part in a weight reduction programme; a third group combined the exercise program and the weight reduction programme; and a fourth group were given an advice leaflet (this acted as the control group).
Professor Avery said: “We have shown that the use of simple home-based exercises to help strengthen the knee can improve knee pain and also reduce the need for painkillers. Also, a weight reduction programme helped people to lose weight and also helped to improve mood.”
The exercise programme was effective at reducing knee pain when measured throughout the study and two years after the start of the study. The weight reduction programme helped people to lose an average of 3kg (almost half a stone) in weight and, while it did not improve knee pain, it did improve depression scores. The researchers also carried out a health economic analysis which showed that the combination of the knee strengthening exercise programme and the weight reduction programme was the most cost-effective way of treating knee pain — meaning that the benefits in terms of improvement in quality of life were considered sufficient to outweigh the costs to the NHS.
Dr Claire Jenkinson, lead researcher for the project, said: “We are extremely grateful to the patients who took part in this study and also to all the NHS staff, including general practices, for helping to make the study a success.”
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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.
More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five.
The University provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's “only truly global university”, it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy), and was named ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008.
Nottingham was designated as a Science City in 2005 in recognition of its rich scientific heritage, industrial base and role as a leading research centre. Nottingham has since embarked on a wide range of business, property, knowledge transfer and educational initiatives (www.science-city.co.uk) in order to build on its growing reputation as an international centre of scientific excellence. The University of Nottingham is a partner in Nottingham: the Science City.