Knee osteoarthritis is one of the leading causes of pain and mobility limitation world-wide. Aside from its physical impact, osteoarthritis is also associated with negative psychological issues such as symptoms of depression and anxiety.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, oral pain medication is far more popular than nondrug options such as exercise, amongst those who experience osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is defined as joint surface changes, often described as ‘wear and tear’. These changes can cause a joint to lose movement, and this may or may not be accompanied by pain. It is a common belief that all joint surface changes are painful, however, in some cases, it has been shown that the severity of surface changes is often poorly correlated with levels of pain or disability reported (Ref 1). It is thought that Kinesiophobia, (fear of movement) is also a major contributing factor to pain. Kinesiophobia is the avoidance of activity for fear of causing harm and further injury. This fear can lead to inactivity, which ultimately furthers pain and impairs mobility (Ref 2).
A recent study looked at the impact of exercise on people who had or were at risk of developing knee osteoarthritis. Researchers found that knee loading exercises were not harmful to the joint articular cartilage (Ref 3). It is well documented that exercise can aid in pain reduction and improvement of physical function in people with knee osteoarthritis (Ref 4/5). This research indicates that rather than resting or limiting a joint, utilising its range of mobility can help to manage symptoms effectively and does not have a detrimental effect on the joint cartilage.
Exercise routines should be tailored to every patient’s needs, tolerance and preferences, and high impact activities should be avoided (Ref 6). It is recommended that an exercise program should include a mixture of aerobic, strengthening, stretching and balance exercises (Ref 7).
For advice on how to best manage your case, visit your healthcare professional to discuss the appropriate exercise programme.