The Arthritis Foundation kicked off a new forum series focused on osteoarthritis (OA) clinical studies – OACS Virtual Forum Series & Conference – on June 17 with leading research experts across the globe who specialize in OA. The focus of these forums is to gather thought leaders in OA from the clinical research areas to discuss the future of how OA can be treated to improve patient outcomes. This inaugural program focused on the topic of “Does Strong Muscle Matter in OA?”, which can be viewed online here.
According to experts participating in this forum, the resounding answer is YES. Whether it’s idiopathic OA or post-traumatic OA, strengthening the muscles that support the knee joints is vital.
“Patients should not be avoiding strengthening exercises. It’s not going to hurt them. In fact, it’s more likely to help them,” said Lynn Snyder-Mackler, PT/ATC/ScD/FAPTA, from the University of Delaware.
“Don’t be afraid to exercise. Get professional advice to find a starting point. Begin under supervision and progress from there. Don’t become a couch potato! Keep exercising. So much research is available to support exercise in treating OA. Muscle strengthening is important.”
Experts on the panel agreed there is not a one-size-fits-all approach and discussed how programs must be tailored individually to patient needs and be designed to be progressive in nature.
Ewa Roos, PhD/PT, from the University of Southern Denmark and author of over 200 peer-reviewed manuscripts in the field, led the forum and panel discussion, which included 145 attendees from across the world. Panelists participating in the discussion included experts with a combined experience of at least 100 years of working in the OA space.
- Michael Hunt, PhD/PT – University of British Columbia
- May Arna Risberg, PhD/PT – Oslo University Hospital
- Neil Segal, MD – University of Kansas
- Steve Messier, PhD – Wake Forest University
- Lynn Snyder-Mackler, PT/ATC/ScD/FAPTA – University of Delaware
“Tackling osteoarthritis is among our organization’s highest priorities,” says Ann M. Palmer, president and CEO of the Arthritis Foundation. “More people have OA than any other form of arthritis. We’re bringing together diverse disciplines and multiple institutions to accelerate the development of new therapies.”
The forum discussion included two patients with OA who shared their experiences of living with the disease and the benefits they have seen by participating in a behavioral clinical trial. The specific study is known as the Strength Training for Arthritis Trial (START) and performed at Wake Forest University by the famed Dr. Stephen Messier.
Ray Norris, who has OA, said prior to participating in a research exercise program, he had fears about his pain and worried about further damaging his meniscus as he exercised. However, learning to exercise with some guidance has helped him get back to the activities he enjoys.
“I’m able to get back in the yard and do work after 20 years with arthritis in my knees,” said Norris.
OA patient Jim Scott said he experienced a significant reduction in pain and discomfort by participating in a research exercise program. Scott said he has seen improvements with an increase in mobility, range of motion and overall balance.
“The difference is very noticeable,” he said. “From the standpoint of balance, I’m never concerned about falling or anything like that now. The benefits of the exercise are really immeasurable from my perspective.”
Dr. Roos tweeted her summary to researchers shortly after the meeting. For researchers, she advised to “use individualized, progressed exercise programs. One way to achieve this is goal-based programs. The time and route to get to the goal will differ for each patient.” For patients, Dr. Hunt concluded: “You do not have to be Superman-strong, but do not be weak!”
The Arthritis Foundation will sponsor and host the OA Clinical Studies Virtual Forum Series & Conference with monthly programs through December 2020. The next presentation is scheduled for July 22, 2020, at 12 p.m. ET, covering the topic, “RA Biologics in OA: Failures but Reasons for Hope?”, led by David Felson from Boston University.
For more information on these forum programs, contact Jason Kim, Arthritis Foundation director of osteoarthritis research programs.