A new study has been done comparing a traditional strengthening exercises program of exercises for knee OA to neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES).
NMES uses electrical stimulation to make the muscles contract rather than your nervous system sending a nerve impulse to the muscle to make it contract. The end result is the muscle works and so builds up strength without you having to actually make the effort to move your leg. The ultimate lazy way to do exercises for knee OA!
Why Use NMES as a Form of Exercises for Knee OA
The biggest problem for therapists when they give someone home based exercises for knee OA is actually getting the person to do them while they are not standing over them. This study wanted to test if people complied better if they could simply stick on a set of pads and watch TV, for example, rather than having to set time aside for doing their exercises.
Is NMES as Good as Traditional Exercises for Knee OA?
The study showed there is very little difference in the increase in strength when comparing NMES to traditional exercises for knee OA saying:
There were similar, significant improvements in functional capacity for the RT and NMES groups at week 8 compared to week 1 and compared to the control group, and the improvements were maintained at week 14.
But slightly more people carried on using NMES compared traditional exercises for knee OA.
Adherence was 91% and 83% in the NMES and RT groups respectively.
Are there any problems using NMES?
I believe NMES is limited as a treatment compared to a full traditional program of exercises for knee OA which should have stretching, isometric and isotonic strengthening exercises.
NMES doesn’t stretch the muscle, it only strengthens using isometric strengthening (i.e. it keeps the joint still will strengthening it). The study showed NMES helped when doing activities requiring strength- as was tested in this study. However I think it will increase the stiffness in the joint, especially in the long term.
How many of you with OA struggle to get going in the morning because of stiffness? I know I do sometimes. To reduce that you need to do stretching and isotonic exercises for knee OA.
The researcher in this study only tested isometric strengthening exercises for knee OA and not a full range of exercises that would normally be given to a patient. They also only tested the muscle at the front of the thigh, the quadriceps, but didn’t do the ones at the back or on either side. The fact they improved only goes to show once what a powerful, effective form of treatment exercises for knee OA is. Using ONE type of exercise on ONE muscle made people feel better. Image if they did a full program of exercises for knee OA on ALL the muscles….
I am not sure whether it is laziness, forgetfulness or simply that nowadays we have got used to having all our medical treatments in pills or surgical form. Or is it simply that we refuse to take responsibility for our own health and well being, relying on others to do things for us rather than taking control of our own destiny? You tell me by leaving a comment below.
Self motivation has never been a problem for me so perhaps I am being hard on those who lack this. I used to rely on other to treat me but since emigrating to New Zealand I have had to treat myself. By doing a full exercise program of stretching, isometric and isotonic exercises 3 times a week my spine is in better shape than it has been for years!
So rather than researcher trying to find a lazy way to make people do what they need to do perhaps they should take the time to explain WHY people need to do exercises for knee OA.
Explain they have 4 weeks hard work ahead of them doing different types of exercises for knee OA, spending 15 to 30 minutes per day. Then this will decrease to about 20 minutes 3 times per week. This hour per WEEK will keep them stable for some years to come (read Jean’s testimonial!).