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OA and Fear

November 3, 2012

This post has been delayed by a hurricane, inspired by a spooky holiday, and grounded in science:

While osteoarthritis does not carry a terrifying death-sentence like severe cancers, it can still produce fear.  Osteoarthritis of the knee can lead to extreme pain during physical activity.  This pain can lead to apprehension about exercise.  Ultimately, that apprehension can become so severe that activity is avoided.  This can be catastrophic.

A recent article in Arthritis Care & Research studied predictors for treatment success.  The authors examined numerous factors including age, BMI, surgical history, and physical therapy treatments.  After their exhaustive review, they found only 2 factors were directly linked to the outcome of the treatment:  Knee instability, and fear of physical activity.

This means that the negative effects of being scared of exercise may be equivalent to damaged ligaments, muscles, and menisci.  In other words, the psychological effects of fear are as dangerous to your health as the physical effects of injury.

So if the thought of exercise makes you nervous, even if you know that it will bring you pain, do not let your fear make you unhealthy.  Work through it now, and overcome your fear.  It will help you later.



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