Musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions refer to a collection of different long-term conditions that affect the joints, bones and muscles. The most common of these being osteoarthritis and back pain. It is estimated that these conditions affect 18.8 million people across the UK, with common symptoms including pain, stiffness and a loss of mobility. As people age, the risk of having an MSK condition rises. However, there are ways to reduce the risk and severity of MSK conditions, such as maintaining a healthy weight and being physically active. In fact, physical activity is considered the most effective, non-drug treatment for reducing pain and improving movement in patients with MSK conditions.

Physical Activity & MSK

For many people, joint and muscle pain is a reason to avoid physical activity in fear of worsening the condition or causing a flare up. Traditionally, advice for joint or muscle pain has been to rest and avoid any movement until the pain has reduced. However, it has been shown that avoidance of physical activity may lead to more frequent episodes of pain and that resting for long periods of time could be what is making it worse.

Physical activity can help relieve joint and muscle pain by increasing the strength of surrounding muscles, and therefore providing extra support. On top of this, physical activity also leads to beneficial changes in the nervous system and the brain. Essentially, physical activity directly influences how we experience pain by decreasing our sensitivity to the stimulus (pain). This phenomenon is known as exercise-induced hypoalgesia.

Physical activity is also known as a natural painkiller due to the release of chemicals within the brain, called endorphins. These chemicals not only help to reduce pain directly, but have the added benefit of improving mood, so you are less likely to notice low levels of pain. So not only will you be in less pain after getting up and moving about, but you’ll also feel happier.

The Benefits of Physical Activity

There are a variety of benefits to being active with a MSK condition, including:

  • Reducing pain levels and pain sensitivity
  • Helping to build and maintain muscle mass, strength, power, and balance, which can improve physical function and independence
  • Improving joint range of motion and flexibility
  • Increase bone density lowering the risk of osteoporosis
  • Assisting with weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight
  • Lowering the risk of nerve damage

Physical activity benefits your mind as well as your body. It is proven to reduce stress levels and improve low mood, and give you energy and help you sleep better, as well as improving your memory.

There isn’t one type of activity that’s best for everyone with a MSK condition as everyone experiences different symptoms. It is important to build up activity gradually and avoid excess stress on the affected muscle or joint. 

How KiActiv® Helps

At KiActiv®, we work with patients with a variety of MSK conditions, including osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia and chronic pain, to find the value of everyday movement to help optimise their physical activity to benefit their health.

KiActiv® Health is a digital service that provides people with a personalised understanding of their everyday physical activity to empower behaviour change in the context of their health and capacity, enabling people to make the right choices for them. 

Crucial to this understanding is that physical activity is more than just exercise and sport, and that every move you make counts. Physical activity is defined as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that results in energy expenditure and, as such, it is important that all of the movement in our lifestyles are accounted for – not just exercise.

Indeed, for many people living with symptoms of MSK conditions physical activity is something that is often dreaded or feared as they believe that movement can make the condition worse, and there is a common misconception that for physical activity to be valuable it must be vigorous. As such, understanding that physical activity is more than just exercise and sport, and that every move matters, is vital for empowering effective self-management. So, for individuals with experiencing joint or muscle pain focusing on movements they enjoy or feel comfortable with, and learning how to build up their activity levels gradually, can help alleviate fear and deliver the numerous benefits of physical activity and promote self-care.

Moving away from exercise to personalised, everyday physical activity is essential in the management of pulmonary conditions, as it opens the therapy window to ~112 hours/week. This can feel more accessible to individuals with MSK conditions and this raised awareness and understanding of everyday physical activity is a key factor in increasing motivation to create healthier habits.

Importantly, by providing individuals with the knowledge, tools and support to self-manage, they can ensure they take it at their own pace, incorporating more activities into their daily routine and reducing fear associated with joint and muscle pain, unlocking the numerous benefits to their health.

Osteactiv has been developed as a bespoke service to support people living with an MSK condition in the journey to optimal health.

With Osteactiv, our personalised and guided online programme for people living with an MSK condition, we will help you make the most of your lifestyle and the opportunities it holds for your health. You can learn more about Osteactiv and sign up to the service here. (link to website)

Client Quotes

“I have noticed I’m able to go up and down stairs quicker as I feel stronger, my legs are stronger.” – Female, 80, Hypertension & Spinal Stenosis.

“It has reminded me how good incorporating exercise into your life makes you feel. Due to many reasons, mainly a back issue, I hadn’t done much exercise for a long time. There are no benefits to that at all. This programme enabled me to remember all the good things.” – Female, 50, Type 2 Diabetes & Back Pain

“I feel a direct benefit in my physical and mental health when I achieve my movement goals. I’m a happier, lighter and more positive than I was at the start of the programme.”- Male, 44, Arthritis

“I’m coming down step-by-step, instead of sideways. That was something I was finding hard with my knees and my ankles, but I’m OK now, I presume it’s because I’ve been doing more, I’m actually trotting up the stairs now. I’ve not done that in a long time.” – Female, 75, Type 2 Diabetes & Knee and Ankle Problems

“I feel like I’m definitely in better nick than when I started, about a stone lighter at least, I feel more energetic and energised.” Male, 44, Arthritis

“I haven’t been getting my leg aches either… I suffer with shin splints. I haven’t had it for a while… since last month when I started doing this. It shows I’m being more active in my feet and legs. I think its because I’m more active now and my legs aren’t in one position.” – Female, 66, Type 2 Diabetes & Shin Splints