Laurie's Blogs.


Nov 2020

Osteoarthritis and Exercise

by Laurie Edge-Hughes

UWT dog


High quality evidence exists to support exercise as a treatment for osteoarthritis. This has been show via research on humans for years now.  We don’t have this sort of research on the veterinary side of the equation… so why not look at the human research as the best AVAILABLE research to make treatment plans?


This blog is inspired by:

Davis AM, Davis KD, Skou ST et al.  Why is exercise effective in reducing pain in people with osteoarthritis?.  Curr Treat Options in Rheum (2020).

And here’s a nifty link to a review of this paper:


I’ll get right to the punch… because as health care professionals, we all understand the mechanisms of OA, the implications of OA, and how exercise can benefit OA.  (Or at least we should!)  So, the parts I wanted to share from this paper are as follows:


  • •12 supervised exercise sessions have consistently shown the greatest benefit towards management of symptomatic OA. 

  • •Education and evidence-based exercise programs are cost-effective and have been implemented successfully in a number of countries.


Twelve, eh?  I think that’s interesting.  Yes, MORE than 12 exercise ‘bouts’ are needed for change, but this is saying that 12 sessions should be supervised in order to make a difference.  

This makes sense to me!  You’re more likely to make changes in 12 sessions.  You’re more likely to build compliance in 12 sessions.  You’re more likely to establish good habits in 12 sessions.  5 or 6 is great… but 12 can do so much more!  

Honesty moment.  I’m not sure I would have had the guts to tell someone – bring your dog to exercise with me 12 times and you’ll see improvement.  I more likely would have said, ‘Let’s try a few sessions and see how he/she is doing and reevaluate our strategy from there.’  


Both strategies are correct.  Research says 12.  My professional instruction, advice, experience has been to set a treatment path and re-evaluate either every session (if the dog is coming back to see me, and not being referred to one of our assistants for hydrotherapy), or recheck after a few weeks of hydrotherapy to see how the dog is doing.


What if my strategy was a bit of both?  I could explain how research says 12 BUT that I also feel it’s important to check up on the dog and reevaluate things after a few sessions or a couple of weeks… just to ensure that everything is going as planned.


So… on that note, how do you do things in your practice when it comes to osteoarthritis and exercise?    Share your clinical strategy toward exercise so I can share it with others: 


Cheers!  Laurie