In something of a Catch-22, osteoarthritis patients are often instructed to exercise to alleviate some of their pain symptoms–but those same pain symptoms may prevent an exercise routine from being formed. Although many sufferers of osteoarthritis may wish to work out, the possibility of further injury is a daunting one.
Recently, Canadian researchers tackled the conundrum in an MRI study focusing on how best to apply exercise to an existing pain condition like osteoarthritis. The study, performed by researchers at McMaster University and entitled ‘Acute changes in knee cartilage transverse relaxation time after running and bicycling‘, posits that not exercising may be as harmful as over-exercising.
The study recruited 15 volunteers who underwent MRI scans of their knees before and after a 15-minute run and a 46-minute bike ride. Specifically, the researchers were measuring “transverse relaxation time,” ie. water’s ability to move around freely within cartilage. Interestingly, bicycling showed no changes in relaxation time, while running did. “People often jump to the conclusion that running equals ‘bad’ and bicycling equals ‘good,” says lead author of the study, and grad student, Anthony Gatti. “I don’t think that this is the case.”
Another interesting finding from this study was that participants who had a more extensive history of physical activity showed less deformation of cartilage.