News March 2019 Issue

In The News: March 2019

Tai Chi Is Effective for Preventing Falls

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About 28 percent of adults age 65 and older fall each year. Falls in older adults can have serious consequences. A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine (December 2018) examined the effectiveness of the rhythmic movement exercise known as tai chi for fall prevention. For the study, 670 adults ages 70 and older who had fallen in the previous year or had impaired mobility were assigned to one of three groups. One group attended twice-weekly sessions of tai chi. The second group had a multimodal exercise (MME) program of balance, aerobics, strength and flexibility activities. The third group did stretching exercises. During the six months of the study, there were 152 falls in the tai chi group, 218 in the MME group and 363 in the stretching group. Falls were reduced by 31 percent with tai chi compared with a multimodal exercise program.

Massage May Help Ease Pain from Knee Osteoarthritis

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Weekly whole-body massage for two months reduced pain and improved mobility for people with knee osteoarthritis in a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine (December 2018). The study included 200 people with knee osteoarthritis who were randomly assigned to three groups. One group received a one-hour Swedish massage once a week for eight weeks. The second group had a light-touch treatment, and the third group received no extra treatment. Participants answered a questionnaire about pain, stiffness and functional ability (such as climbing stairs, bending, walking, getting out of a car, and other activities). The massage group had greater improvements in pain, stiffness and physical function than the other two groups. After 10 additional months (but with twice-monthly massages), those receiving massage maintained the improvements, but did not get any better.

Achilles Tendon Problems Common in Rheumatoid Arthritis

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Rheumatoid arthritis, which primarily affects joints, is a systemic disease that can have other effects in the body. About 90 percent of people with rheumatoid arthritis develop ankle symptoms, which may be caused by inflammation or degeneration in the area of the Achilles tendon (at the back of the ankle). The condition often goes undiagnosed. To better understand how common this is, researchers used ultrasound to assess the ankles of 30 people (mean age 58) with rheumatoid arthritis, 30 percent of whom had ankle pain. The researchers compared their ultrasounds to those of 18 healthy athletes. The researchers, who presented their findings at the Annual Meeting of the American College of Rheumatology (October 2018), found that all of the participants with rheumatoid arthritis had at least one Achilles tendon problem, such as inflammation or thickening of the tendon. They encouraged more diagnosis and treatment of these problems.

Long-Term Drug Treatments of Uncertain Benefit for Osteoarthritis

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Osteoarthritis (caused by the wearing down of cushioning cartilage in joints) is a chronic condition that tends to worsen over time. Studies of pain medications for the condition usually last for only short periods of time. A group of researchers sought to examine the effectiveness of long-term use of 33 different medications, vitamins and supplements. These included analgesics (such as acetaminophen), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), glucosamine, chondroitin, bone drugs (such as bisphosphonates), injections of corticosteroids and hyaluronic acid, and others. The researchers reviewed results from 47 studies that lasted at least one year and reported their findings in JAMA (December 2018). While there was some pain reduction with the NSAID celecoxib (Celebrex®) and the supplement glucosamine, there was too much uncertainty in all of the studies to come to any conclusions. More research is needed.

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