Managing knee pain caused by osteoarthritis

As we become older, the joints in our body, particularly our knees can become sore and inflamed over time, writes May-Ann Low, physiotherapist at The Physio Co.


Knee pain or limitations in movement can have a detrimental impact on not only our function but our overall quality of life, it can stop us doing what we love.

This inflammation – most commonly caused by osteoarthritis – can result in pain and weakness, affecting one’s ability to perform everyday tasks.

When we experience pain, it is natural instinct to avoid anything that causes the pain, but is this the correct solution?

Avoiding particular movements can be very effective in managing pain with an acute injury, an injury that occurs suddenly. However, with chronic injuries that develop gradually over time, avoiding movement and pain altogether could actually make things worse.

It can be difficult to know what we should and shouldn’t do, and the best ways to manage our pain so that we can continue to do the things we love. The following are four ways in which we can manage osteoarthritic knee pain, in turn, helping to improve our mobility as well as provide pain relief without solely replying on drugs.


Weight management

Excess weight places greater stress on our weight-bearing joints. The knee joint is the largest joint in our body, therefore bears a considerable amount of the body’s weight. Managing your weight within a healthy range can be beneficial in managing osteoarthritis by reducing the load the joint and muscles need to carry. Exercise is a key component of keeping your body weight within normal range.


Movement and exercise

Unlike the bones in our body, the cartilage in our joints do not receive a blood supply. They rely on movement of the joints to deliver the nutrients needed to stay strong, allowing smooth movement. Performing exercises and continuing to move our bodies helps to reduce stiffness and flexibility in our joints and can also help to strengthen the muscles surrounding the joints.

With improved muscle tone, this can relieve pressure on the joint surfaces, reducing friction and maintaining good cartilage health. In fact, research shows that exercise is the best way to manage osteoarthritic knee pain. Exercise is a non-drug treatment effective in managing osteoarthritis in the knee and elsewhere in the body too, as well as providing osteoarthritic knee pain relief.

When we are exercising a stiff or osteoarthritic joint, specifically the knee, there is likely to be some discomfort or mild pain. This is okay! If the pain is severe or sharp in nature or lasts for longer than one day you may need to consult your physiotherapist. They will be able to ensure you are performing the exercises correctly and adjust your exercises to suit your needs.


Psychological factors

Ever wondered why it’s easier to get up and out of bed on holidays, compared to days at home when you have nothing planned? We have our brains to thank for that!

When thinking about pain, it is important we consider not only the physical aspects, but also the psychological aspects of our pain. Stress, anxiety and depression can have a profound impact on how we perceive our pain. If we are more stressed during a particular time, research has found that we will perceive pain more intensely, compared to when we are relaxed, for example when on holidays.

Sleeping badly and not being able to join in with activities we used to enjoy can also dramatically increase the sense of pain. Again, research has found that exercise has a positive effect on mood, improves sleep quality and is a great form of socialising – all of which benefit our general well-being and help better manage our pain.



It’s important to remember that when working out how to manage osteoarthritic knee pain, medication may play an important part of the overall plan. Your doctor may prescribe medication for a flare-up or pain-relieving medication may be prescribed in order to help keep you active and performing your exercises. It is important to consult your doctor about what medication is right for you. Ideally, medication use is part of a broader management plan to keep you as mobile and pain-free as possible.

The above recommendations are a great way to get started on self-managing your knee pain. If you feel you need a little extra assistance or guidance, it’s always best to check in with your local health professional to make sure you are doing what is best for you.

The Physio Co’s team of physiotherapists specialise in helping seniors achieve their health and fitness goals. Our team can visit you wherever you call home and can help devise a personalised plan to help you stay mobile, safe and happy.


Article written by The Physio Co for Chapter Magazine


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