Light exercise is one of the most effective ways
to relieve arthritis pain by stimulating circulation
and strengthening the muscles, ligaments, and tendons
around your knee. Strong muscles take pressure off
the bones so there is less grinding in the knee
joint during activities. In conjunction with a healthy
diet, exercise also can help you lose weight, which
takes stress off your arthritic knee.
In the first few weeks of rehabilitation, your physical
therapist usually helps you stretch the muscles
in your hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves while
flexing and extending your knee to restore a full,
pain-free range of motion.
When pain has decreased, physicians generally recommend
at least 30 minutes of low-impact exercise a day
for patients with arthritis. You should try to cut
back on activities that place added stress on your
knees, like running and strenuous weight lifting.
Cross-training exercise programs are commonly prescribed
when you have arthritis. Depending on your preferences,
your workouts may vary each day between cycling,
cross-country skiing machines, elliptical training
machines, swimming, and other low-impact cardiovascular
exercises. Walking is usually better for arthritic
knees than running, and many patients prefer swimming,
which takes your body weight off your knees and
makes movement easier.
Strength training usually focuses on moving light
weights through a complete, controlled range of
motion. You should generally avoid trying to lift
as much as possible with your quadriceps and hamstrings.
Your physical therapist typically teaches you to
move slowly through the entire movement, like bending
and straightening your knee, with enough resistance
to work your muscles without stressing the bones
in your knee. Once your physical therapist has taught
you a proper exercise program, it is important to
find time each day to perform the prescribed exercises.
After rehabilitation, preventing osteoarthritis
is a process of slowing the progression and spread
of the disease. Because patients remain at risk
for continued pain in their knees after treatment,
it is important they are proactive in managing their
conditions. Maintaining aerobic cardiovascular fitness
has been an effective method for preventing the
progression of osteoarthritis. Light, daily exercise
is much better for an arthritic knee than occasional,
heavy exercise. When you have arthritis in your
knees, it is especially important to avoid suffering
any serious knee injuries, like torn ligaments or
fractured bones, because arthritis can complicate
knee injury treatment. You should avoid high-impact
or repetitive stress sports, like football and distance
running, that commonly cause severe knee injuries.
Depending on the severity of your arthritis, your
physician may also recommend limiting your participation
in sports that involve sprinting, twisting, or jumping.
Because osteoarthritis has multiple causes and may
be related to genetic factors, no simple prevention
tactic will help everyone avoid increased arthritic
pain. To prevent the spread of arthritis, physicians
generally recommend that you take the following
anything that makes pain last for over an hour or
controlled range of motion activities that do not
overload the joint.
heavy impact on the knees during everyday and athletic
strengthen the muscles in your thigh and lower leg
to help protect the bones and cartilage in your
Non-contact activities are a great way to keeping
joints and bones healthy and maintain fitness over
time. Exercise also helps promote weight loss, which
can take stress off your knees.
Arthritis treatments begin with the least invasive
techniques. A combination of activity modification,
bracing and support, and light exercise can initially
ease arthritis pain. Immediately after you are diagnosed
with osteoarthritis, your physician may prescribe
R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation):
- continuing some form of light exercise is important
for circulation and bone strength, but you should
usually decrease the intensity of your involvement
in physical activities if arthritis is causing pain.
You do not want to risk suffering joint injuries
in contact sports due to excessive twisting, jumping,
- apply ice packs to the painful knee for about
20 minutes every three or four hours. You will probably
need to do this for two or three weeks or until
the pain subsides, and you may need to regularly
ice an arthritic knee after exercise or activities.
One effective way to apply ice is to use a bag of
frozen vegetables, particularly frozen peas, which
molds easily to the shape of the knee. It won't
leak and it can be re-used. (Warning: do not eat
the contents after thawing and re-freezing.)
- Though braces are never a substitute for strong
leg muscles, physicians may prescribe knee sleeves
or braces for some patients to wear for extra support
during activities that strain their knees.
- raising your knee to a level higher than your
heart helps reduce swelling. Try to prop your knee
or ankle up on a couple of pillows when lying down
or sleeping. Your physician may refer you to a physical
therapist, who can teach you proper exercise techniques
that help maintain joint strength and flexibility
you strong without risking further damage to the
knees. Many heat treatments are also available,
including heat lamps, hot showers, heating pads,
heat ointments, and whirlpool or bath treatments.
Many people with arthritis alleviate pain with heat
treatment before activities and ice afterwards.
Heat treatment is not as common as ice and is usually
left to your physical therapist's discretion.