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OA and Dysfunction

January 18, 2013

Inactivity can make knee osteoarthritis and pain much worse.

The word “dysfunction” refers to abnormal or impaired function, usually of a physiological system or social group.  With regard to osteoarthritis, generic dysfunction of an individual describes a present state below that individual’s potential; living a life of suffering and hardship when a better life is within your grasp.  Anatomical dysfunction such as severe knee deformities and knee pain can be a tremendous obstacle, but it is not insurmountable.  In the moment that your osteoarthritis prevents you from engaging in an activity, you face a broader and more damaging form of dysfunction.

A recent study at Northwestern university examined over one thousand patients with knee osteoarthritis.  Patients with severe knee dysfunction were roughly half as active as those without anatomical deficits.  While this may not seem extreme for individuals with severe deformities, what is frightening is that overweight individuals had the same levels of inactivity.  Obese patients showed even greater inactivity, at about a quarter of the activity level of lighter individuals still suffering from knee osteoarthritis.  Unfortunately, inactivity makes weight issues worse, and can propagate a cycle of inactivity and obesity that gets worse and worse.

But there is a silver lining:

Adjusting your activity level dramatically improves function.  An inactive (“dysfunctional”) individual can regain function and health by increasing their activity level.  If you are categorized as overweight or obese, you need not remain there.  Your ability to overcome obesity is limited only by your control over diet and exercise, because your knee pain and anatomical dysfunction will decrease with your weight.

So add some fiber to your diet.  Add a walk to your daily schedule.  And remember that slow, incremental change will keep you on the path to your goals.

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