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Physiotherapists working with knee osteoarthritis patients who are overweight should potentially be focusing on weight loss as a key driver of positive outcomes.
A new study from Wake Forest University in the US has indicated that the more excess weight adults with knee osteoarthritis can lose, the higher their chances are of successfully reducing their pain levels and improving their functional capabilities.
For this research, a total of 240 overweight and obese older community-dwelling adults with pain and knee osteoarthritis involved in a diet and exercise programme were divided into four groups, according to the amount of weight they lost over an 18-month period.
It was found that the greater the weight loss, the better participants felt in terms of pain, function and six-minute walking distance. Their physical and mental health-related quality of life also improved, while knee joint compression force and inflammation markers were reduced.
The findings also indicated that the group who achieved 20 per cent weight loss or higher experienced 25 per cent less pain and better function than those who lost between ten and 20 per cent of their weight, as well as significant improvements in their health-related quality of life.
Dr Stephen Messier, of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, said: "Currently, there is no treatment that slows the progression or prevents this debilitating disease; hence, research has focused on improving clinical outcomes important to the patient.
"A ten per cent weight loss is the established target recommended by the National Institutes of Health as an initial weight loss for overweight and obese adults. The importance of our study is that a weight loss of 20 per cent or greater - double the previous standard - results in better clinical outcomes, and is achievable without surgical or pharmacologic intervention."
Since obesity is known to be a leading modifiable risk factor for many of the more than 250 million adults with knee osteoarthritis, this research could help to inform future treatment strategies for the disease.
Written by Mathew Horton
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