Osteoarthritis of the knee is a common arthritic joint condition. Anti-inflammatory medications are frequently prescribed for relieving pain. In an effort to reduce the need for medication, many turn to other means of pain reduction. Is exercise effective in reducing arthritis knee pain? If so, what type of exercise is best?

For those experiencing pain, the idea of exercise can be daunting. The theory of improving strength around arthritis joints is that muscles work as shock absorbers, thus increasing strength will reduce joint stress. The good news about determining if exercise is helpful in reducing knee arthritis pain is that there have been numerous studies that have evaluated the issue. What have we learned?

In a study reported in the Journal of Arthritis Care & Research in Jan. of 2010, researchers found that after a 9-month strengthening program using weight machines, improvements in both physical function and decreased knee pain and disability were reported. Another article published Feb., 2010 in Osteoarthritis Cartilage evaluated the benefit of doing hip strengthening exercises for reducing knee arthritis pain. In the study, 89 subjects participated in the 12 week program. The researchers found that although the strengthening program did not reduce knee stress loads, subjects did report decreased pain and improved function.

Strength training is not the only form of exercise that has demonstrated benefits for knee osteoarthritis. Tai Chi has been reported to be very effective in reducing knee arthritis pain. In 2009 alone, three separate studies evaluated the benefit of a Tai Chi exercise program on knee osteoarthritis with each study reporting decreased pain and functional improvements.

Aquatic or water exercise is also a frequent exercise recommendation for those with arthritis pain. A study reported in Physical Therapy compared a land based exercise program to a water based program. Sixty four subjects participated in an 18 week program. Results found that both the land and water based programs were effective in reducing pain and improving function. The water based program did have a greater improvement in walking tolerance.

Equipment and exercise classes are not the only way to reduce arthritis pain. A study in Arthritis Research and Therapy reported that a walking program of two bouts of 1500 steps each performed three days a week resulted in a significant reduction in arthritis pain and improved physical function.

Finally, for those that are concerned that exercise may damage rather than help knee arthritis, a Canadian Family Physician study found that moderate exercise does not accelerate knee osteoarthritis. It also found that exercise results in improved function, reduced disability, and diminished pain.

The answer to the question of “is exercise helpful in reducing knee osteoarthritis pain?” is a resounding YES. Exercise is effective in both reducing pain and improving function. Despite this fact, compliance to following an exercise routine continues to be a significant barrier. To help increase the likelihood of being consistent with an exercise program, find activities that you enjoy. Your knees will thank you for it.

Author's Bio: 

Janelle Trempe is a phyical therapist with 20 years of clinical experience in orthopedics. She continues to practice in Southern California. For more information regarding arthritis treatment, visit the arthritis treatment page on her website: http://www.joint-pain-solutions.com/arthritis-treatments.html