March 18, 2021

Strength training for osteoarthritis

High-intensity strength training is not more effective than low-intensity training or educational efforts for reducing knee pain in patients with osteoarthritis.

by Emily Stembridge

More than 250 million people worldwide suffer from knee osteoarthritis. Moderate strength training is a recommended form of pain relief which may help maintain cartilage integrity, but high-intensity strength training may be detrimental for osteoarthritis symptoms due to greater force exerted on the joint. 

In a study by J. Jeffrey Carr, MD, led by colleagues at Wake Forest University, 377 adults over the age of 50 with knee osteoarthritis were randomly assigned to high-intensity strength training, low-intensity training or attention control (group educational workshops). Training sessions were conducted three times weekly for 18 months. 

The researchers reported in JAMA that among these patients, high-intensity strength training when compared with low-intensity training or attention control did not significantly reduce knee pain or joint compressive forces.

Their findings do not support the use of high-intensity strength training over low-intensity strength training or attention control in adults with knee osteoarthritis.

This study was supported by grants AR059105 from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases and AG021332 from the National Institute on Aging.