Aromatase Inhibitors & Joint Stiffness: Walking Program Shows Promise

woman holding wrist arthritis joint stiffness

Summary: A self-directed walking program shows promise in easing joint stiffness among older women who experience these symptoms while taking the “anti-estrogen” drugs known as aromatase inhibitors. This is the conclusion of research present this week at the America College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting in San Diego (USA).

Background: Postmenopausal women with breast cancer whose treatment often includes an aromatase inhibitor (AI) often experience joint pain or stiffness as a side effect. Some studies have suggested that up to 20-32% will stop taking the drug because of this side effect. But the incorporation of these drugs into the breast cancer management program has led to impressive reductions in breast cancer recurrence and death.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (USA) conducted a pilot study to see whether physical activity could improve joint pain or stiffness. Women in the program followed the walking program for six weeks. Twenty patients participated, all of whom were 65 or older, had Stage I-III disease, and reported joint pain or stiffness associated with an aromatase inhibitor.

Results: At the end of the study, 100% of the study participants said that they would recommend the program to other breast cancer survivors experiencing joint pain or stiffness. The average joint pain scoopers among the participants decreased by 10 percent, fatigue decreased by 19 percent, and joint stiffness dropped by 32 percent.

My Take: For selected postmenopausal patients with breast cancers driven by estrogen, aromatase inhibitors can provide improvements in survival and relapse chances. But these women are much more likely to experience side effects such as hot flashes, night sweat, cold swears, joint pain and stiffness, as well as other problems. Simply walking may help with the common side effect of joint pain and stiffness. I typically suggest a minimum of 30 minutes of the equivalent of a brisk walk, 5 to 6 times per week.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

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Reference: American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting (San Diego, 2013).

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Harvard AB Yale MD UPenn Radiation Oncology Radiation Oncologist, Seattle area

One thought on “Aromatase Inhibitors & Joint Stiffness: Walking Program Shows Promise”

  1. I have found a real reversal of joint stiffness since I have been doing regular water aerobics. The water takes all the stress off the joints and allows me to stretch and bend aerobically!

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