Knee Pain and Osteoarthritis


April 28, 2011

by Kristy Carpenter, P.T., D.P.T.

Osteoarthritis, also referred to as “degenerative arthritis”, is a painful condition that causes a breakdown of the cartilage that surrounds joints. The knee joint is a common site for this condition. This can occur over a course of months or years. Without this healthy cartilage in the knee joint, bones can make contact and grind away at each other, causing pain. Other symptoms can include stiffness, loss of motion, swelling, and tenderness. Whether your symptoms are mild pain after a long walk or severe pain after standing for only a few minutes, physical therapy may help.

What you can do to help alleviate or minimize your pain:

  1. Wear good supportive shoes. Avoid wearing heels greater than 1 inch or flat shoes without good arch support.
  2. Apply moist heat or ice, or both. Moist heat can be helpful to improve circulation and decrease stiffness. Ice can be beneficial after vigorous activity or when swelling is present. Alternating moist heat and ice for 5 minute intervals can also help with pain. Make sure to sit down and elevate the leg while doing this.
  3. Maintain a healthy weight. Reducing weight can decrease the amount of stress on your knee joint.
  4. Strengthen your muscles. Strong muscles surrounding your knee joint can take some of the load off your knees. Hip muscles and ankle muscles are also important to strengthen, so don’t forget about them.
  5. See your physical therapist. We can give you an individualized program directed at your impairments and functional restrictions. Physical therapists can provide a variety of interventions that may include therapeutic exercise, aquatic therapy, manual therapy techniques, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, taping techniques, and a home program to continue with your success at home.

Most importantly, see your physician. There are other conditions that may also cause knee joint pain, so getting an accurate diagnosis is the first step in determining the most appropriate treatment.