Exercise therapy versus arthroscopic partial meniscectomy for degenerative meniscal tear in middle aged patients: randomised controlled trial with two year follow-up
This study comes from the BMJ, formerly known as the British Medical Journal. I've included the conclusions here and a link to the entire study. This shows once again that surgery for orthopedic issues should be a last resort. -- Laura
BMJ 2016; 354 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i3740 (Published 20 July 2016)Cite this as: BMJ 2016;354:i3740
Conclusions and policy implications
The observed difference in treatment effect was minute after two years’ follow-up, and the trial’s inferential uncertainty, as shown by the 95% confidence limits, was sufficiently small to exclude clinically relevant differences. Supervised exercise therapy showed positive effects over surgery in improving thigh muscle strength, at least in the short term. Nineteen per cent of participants allocated to exercise therapy crossed over to surgery during the two year follow-up, with no additional benefit. No serious adverse events occurred in either group during the two year follow-up. Our results should encourage clinicians and middle aged patients with degenerative meniscal tear and no radiographic evidence of osteoarthritis to consider supervised structured exercise therapy as a treatment option.
Find the entire article here: http://www.bmj.com/content/354/bmj.i3740?utm_content=buffer795ae&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer
This exemplifies the importance of rehabilitating even seemingly small injuries. A kink in the system can have a big impact. -- Laura
The Hazards of Ankle Sprains
by Jane E. Brody
New York Times July 25, 2016
Many fashion-conscious women wear high heels to show off their legs. But in truth, given the extraordinarily high incidence of ankle sprains, we’d probably all be better off if we had thick stumps like an elephant’s to connect our feet to our legs.
Every day in the United States, about 28,000 people sprain an ankle. Too often the injury is dismissed as “just a sprain,” with no specific treatment and a return to full activity before it has completely healed. Fully 45 percent of all athletic injuries are ankle sprains, and players often go back into the game with little or no treatment as soon as the pain subsides.
In fact, according to the International Ankle Consortium, a global group of researchers and clinicians who study ankle injuries, 55 percent of people who sprain an ankle never seek professional treatment in the aftermath of the injury.
Yet the majority of ankle sprains are doomed to recur. That’s because they often result in a chronically unstable joint that tends to “give way,” poor balance, a distorted gait, difficulty exercising, weight gain, diminished quality of life and early arthritis. Not to mention the expense of dealing with health problems that can result from being overweight and sedentary living.
Sound scary? It should, says Phillip A. Gribble, an athletic trainer at the University of Kentucky and co-director of the International Ankle Consortium, who hopes that knowing the potential consequences of ankle injuries will prompt more people to treat them with respect and seek proper treatment. Even better, he said, would be if more people took steps to prevent injury in the first place. And that, ladies, may include leaving those spike heels in the store.
Dr. Gribble was one of several experts who recently presented the latest technical information on ankle sprains to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association meeting in Baltimore. In a study of 3,526 adults who responded to a questionnaire, more than half, or 1,843, had previously sustained an ankle injury. Those who had injured their ankles tended to weigh more, had greater limitations in their daily activities and were more likely to have cardiovascular or respiratory conditions than those who remained injury free.
While ankle sprains are most common among physically active people, especially amateur and professional sports players and dancers, the general public is hardly immune. The injury can result from walking on an uneven surface (especially while wearing high heels or platform shoes), misstepping off a curb or staircase, being pulled erratically by a dog on a leash, even playing around in the yard with children or friends.
It doesn’t take much. I know — years ago, I sustained two bad sprains, one stepping on a stick while trimming a hedge and the other missing the last step while exiting a plane in the dark. I am now extremely careful about where I walk and what I put on my feet, especially when hiking in the woods (boots are de rigueur).
Most ankle sprains result when the foot abruptly turns in under the leg so that the sole of that foot faces the opposite leg, unduly stretching the ligament on the outside of the ankle. The extent of the injury can range from a minor strain to a complete tear, and the rate and extent of healing can vary greatly.
In one report to the athletic trainers’ convention, 12 college students who had sprained an ankle still had an incompletely healed, overstretched ligament a year after the injury, which “may explain the high percentage of patients that develop chronic ankle instability,” said Tricia Hubbard-Turner of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Even though fewer than half of ankle sprains receive medical attention, the injury is so common (an estimated incidence of 2.06 ankle sprains per 1,000 people a year) that it is the leading lower extremity injury that results in an emergency room visit, according to data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System.
As with any injury, ankle sprains are best prevented. One of the best approaches is to improve one’s balance with exercises that train the body to stay upright and maintain control in all kinds of positions. Dr. Gribble recommends spending time standing on one foot, at first on a firm surface, then with eyes closed, then on a soft surface like a pillow. As a final challenge, practice balancing on a wobble board, he said.
Muscles surrounding the ankle can be strengthened by wrapping a towel around the foot for resistance, then moving the foot up, down, in and out. Do stretching exercises that increase the flexibility of the legs, hip and torso to guard against any unanticipated awkward movements.
When participating in sports like basketball, soccer and tennis — which involve jumps or quick changes in direction that can put ankles at risk — consider taping or bracing the ankles to increase their stability.
Finally, avoid being a weekend warrior who indulges in a sport full tilt without adequate preparation. Build up gradually, practice the skills involved and make sure to keep needed muscles strong.
Should you sprain an ankle, avoid the all too common layman’s advice to “walk it off.” At a minimum, leave the game or whatever you were doing and avoid putting weight on that foot to give the injured joint adequate rest. If the injury is severe, you may need to use crutches.
If you do sprain an ankle, apply ice wrapped in a cloth for 15 to 20 minutes every two or three hours for two days, then once a day until pain and swelling are gone. Sit or lie down as much as possible with the injured ankle elevated above the hip. To further minimize swelling, wrap the ankle in an elastic bandage, starting at the toes and working up to the leg.
Seriously consider a medical consultation, especially if pain and swelling persist for more than a few days. Although in most cases, an X-ray or M.R.I. is not needed to make an accurate diagnosis, the injury could be more serious than a simple sprain. Ask about physical therapy, which can strengthen the joint and help prevent reinjury.
Most important of all, don’t rush back into activity before healing is complete and normal, pain-free range of motion has been restored. Reinjuring the ankle can result in permanent pain and disability and the health consequences noted above.
Food for thought. I follow this model as it has the best short- and long-term results. --Laura
"In a qualitative study exploring the characteristics of expert clinicians, defined by their better outcomes rather than their years of experience, it was the use of a patient-centered approach to care that distinguished the expert from the average clinician (Resnick and Jensen 2003). In a patient-centered approach a primary aim is empowerment of the patient and increasing self-efficacy, 'accomplished through patient education, avoiding passive modalities, minimizing unnecessary visits, and helping patients to develop self-management strategies' (Resnick and Jensen 2003). All these elements have always been at the core of mechanical diagnosis and therapy (McKenzie 1981, 1990).
McKenzie R, May S (1990) The Cervical & Thoracic Spine: Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (Vol 1). New Zealand: Spinal Publications New Zealand Ltd.
"It should be remembered that radiographic signs of degeneration are almost universal after 55, but that symptoms are present in only about 50% of those with such changes."
Huskisson EC, Hart FD (1987). Joint Diseases: All the arthropathies (4th ed.). Wrght, Bristol.
-- This means that abnormalities on imaging do not necessarily correlate with symptoms. Plenty of people are walking around with torn rotator cuffs, meniscal tears, arthritis and the like without any actual symptoms. More importantly, plenty of people incorrectly think that their symptoms can't be fixed because imaging shows something is irreversibly wrong. Via a thorough clinical examination, I aim to find and address the true cause of a patient's symptoms. Don't overlook expert physical therapy just because something is on an x-ray or MRI.
Learn a bit more about the McKenzie Method of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT) with this 4-minute video. I fully agree with what Dr. Donelson says - MOST patients with spine pain can resolve their symptoms with simple, targeted exercises. I figure out which exercise is best for the patient in the evaluation!
Enjoy this article! While I promote regular exercise for wellness, I also strongly believe in targeted exercises for therapeutic purposes when something - orthopedic or other - is amiss. -- Laura
Aaron E. Carroll
The New York Times, June 20, 2016
After I wrote last year that diet, not exercise, was the key to weight loss, I was troubled by how some readers took this to mean that exercise therefore had no value.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Of all the things we as physicians can recommend for health, few provide as much benefit as physical activity.
In 2015, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges put out a report calling exercise a “miracle cure.” This isn’t a conclusion based simply on some cohort or case-control studies. There are many, many randomized controlled trials. A huge meta-analysis examined the effect of exercise therapy on outcomes in people with chronic diseases.
Let’s start with musculoskeletal diseases. Researchers found 32 trials looking specifically at the effect of exercise on pain and function of patients with osteoarthritis of the knee alone. That’s incredibly specific, and it’s impressive that so much research has focused on one topic.
Exercise improved those outcomes. Ten more studies showed, over all, that exercise therapy increases aerobic capacity and muscle strength in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Other studies proved its benefits in other musculoskeletal conditions, like ankylosing spondylitis, and even some types of back pain.
For people (mostly middle-aged men) who had had a heart attack, exercise therapy reduced all causes of mortality by 27 percent and cardiac mortality by 31 percent. Fourteen additional controlled trials showed physiological benefits in those with heart failure. Exercise has also been shown to lower blood pressure in patients with hypertension, and improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
People with diabetes who exercise have lower HbA1c values, which is the marker of blood sugar control, low enough to probably reduce the risk of complications from the disease. Twenty randomized controlled trials have showed that patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease can walk farther and function better if they exercise.
Multiple studies have found that exercise improves physical function and health-related quality of life in people who have Parkinson’s disease. Six more studies showed that exercise improves muscle power and mobility-related activities in people with multiple sclerosis. It also appeared to improve those patients’ moods.
The overall results of 23 randomized controlled trials showed that exercise most likely improves the symptoms of depression. Five others appear to show that it improves symptoms in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. In trials, exercise even lessened fatigue in patients who were having therapy for cancer.
What other intervention can claim results like these?
Even studies of older, hospitalized patients show a beneficial effect from multidisciplinary interventions that include exercise. Those randomized to such interventions in the hospital were more likely to be discharged to go home, and to spend less time in the hospital over all — and at a lower cost.
Although we don’t think of it this way, you can make a pretty good argument that exercise is as good as drugs for many conditions. A 2013 meta-analysis of meta-analyses (that’s how much data we have) combined and analyzed the results from 16 reviews of randomized controlled trials of drug and exercise interventions in reducing mortality. Collectively, these included 305 trials with almost 340,000 participants.
Diuretic drugs (but not all drugs) were shown to be superior to exercise in preventing death from heart failure. But exercise was found to be equally good as drugs in preventing mortality from coronary heart disease. Exercise was better than drugs in preventing death among patients from strokes.
Many people will be surprised at how little you need to do to achieve these results. Years ago, in an effort to get in shape, I tried the P90X routine. It proved too hard for me. Later, when I tried the Insanity workout, it beat me so badly that people at work kept asking me if I was ill. Two years ago, I tried P90X3. It was a bit more manageable, but I still couldn’t keep it up.
I have not been alone in thinking that physical activity to improve health should be hard. When I hear friends talk about exercising, they discuss running marathons, participating in CrossFit classes or sacrificing themselves on the altar of SoulCycle. That misses the point, unfortunately. All of these are much more than you need to do to get the benefits I’ve described.
The recommendations for exercise are 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity physical activity for adults, or about 30 minutes each weekday.
Moderate intensity is probably much less than you think. Walking briskly, at 3 to 4 miles per hour or so, qualifies. So does bicycling slower than 10 miles an hour. Anything that gets your heart rate somewhere between 110 and 140 beats per minute is enough. Even vacuuming, mowing the lawn or walking your dog might qualify.
Today, my goals are much more modest. Trekking from my office to the clinic and back again gives me 30 minutes of exercise. Or, I walk to the supermarket from my office to grab lunch, at a mile each way. In colder weather, I spend half an hour on the elliptical machine. Doing this five days a week gets me the activity I need.
Although it feels as if there’s nothing we can do to change people’s behavior, there is evidence to the contrary. A systematic review and meta-analysis of advice and counseling by health professionals found that promotion of physical activity works.
Doctors and clinics that made efforts to promote exercise to patients needed to engage 12 adults on the subject to get one additional adult to meet recommended levels of activity one year later. That might not sound impressive, but it’s one of the better such results.
After the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges wrote its report, an editorial in the BMJ, a prominent medical journal, countered that exercise wasn’t a “miracle cure.” Instead, the authors argued it was “the best buy for public health.”
If that’s the best “counterpoint,” then physical activity seems like a no-brainer.
Aaron E. Carroll is a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine who blogs on health research and policy at The Incidental Economist and makes videos at Healthcare Triage. Follow him on Twitter at @aaronecarroll.
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