Symptom relief may be just a shoe store away for your patients suffering from symptoms of knee osteoarthritis (OA). A small study has demonstrated that flat, flexible footwear such as flip-flops and sneakers significantly reduces the load on the knee joints compared with supportive, stable shoes that have less flexible soles.

In their online report for Arthritis Care & Research, Najia Shakoor, MD, and colleagues described their analysis of the gait of 31 patients with OA symptoms walking barefoot and then in four popular shoe types: clogs, stability shoes, flat athletic street shoes with flexible soles, and flip-flops. The loads on the knee joints were up to 15% greater when the clogs and stability shoes were worn, compared with flat walking shoes, flip-flops, or no shoes.

A different approach to knee OA relief was explored in another small study that employed the use of electromagnetic pulses. In the trial, conducted by a team led by Fred Nelson, MD, of Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital, people with knee OA strapped a device emitting a low-intensity pulsating electromagnetic frequency around their knees for 15 minutes twice a day for six weeks. Dr. Nelson, who presented the results in March at the Orthopaedic Research Society’s annual meeting in New Orleans, announced in a statement that patients experienced pain relief of more than 40% on the first day they used the device, with no side effects.

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Pain relief was also the subject of a study for another set of rheumatology patients: fibromyalgia sufferers. Kevin Fontaine and fellow investigators randomized 84 fibromyalgia patients to 30 minutes of lifestyle physical activity (LPA), five to seven days per week, for 12 weeks, or to a fibromyalgia education control group. LPA involves moderate-intensity physical activity that can be incorporated easily into everyday routines—for example, using stairs instead of elevators, walking, and gardening.

According to the results of the study, available online through the open-access journal Arthritis Research & Therapy, the LPA patients increased their average daily steps by 54%, and reported significantly fewer perceived functional deficits and less pain than the control subjects.