If you suffer from osteoarthritis of the knee, there are way to prevent pain and manage it when it occurs. Many of these come down to your lifestyle, such as changes to diet and exercise habits. If you need more focused approaches for treating your pain, you also have options like knee braces, physical therapy, and knee joint injections.
What is osteoarthritis of the knee?
Osteoarthritis is a condition caused by natural wear and tear on the joints. The cartilage between the bones begins to wear down causing the bones to rub together. This can be a very painful condition if you suffer from it. This wearing down of the protective cartilage is a common result of the body’s natural aging process but can be exacerbated by certain repetitive motions or being overweight. The condition is degenerative and can continue to progress as a patient ages.
Common symptoms include:
- Pain after movement
- Tenderness when pressure is applied to the area
- Stiffness after inactivity
- Loss of flexibility
- A grating sensation when the joint is used
- Bone spurs developing in the area
Each of these symptoms greatly impacts a patient’s quality of life. They can also lead to additional challenges when it comes to getting around or maintaining a healthy weight.
One of the most common forms of the condition is osteoarthritis of the knee. Current research suggests that knee osteoarthritis could be hereditary or it could be caused by an injury or infection that affects that joint. Young people can suffer from osteoarthritis of the knee, but the risk increases significantly after the age of 45. Body weight is extremely important for someone suffering from knee osteoarthritis since our knees bear much of our weight when we are walking or standing.
There is no specific cure for osteoarthritis of the knee but a number of treatments and lifestyle changes have proven to be effective in slowing down its progress or preventing pain.
How can you prevent knee osteoarthritis?
The most effective treatments for knee osteoarthritis include lifestyle changes. Losing excess body weight may be one of the most significant ways to improve the stress on the knees and reduce pain. Eating a healthy diet and maintaining an exercise program are also essential.
Weightlifting or bodybuilding may the most effective forms of exercise to alleviate pain caused by knee osteoarthritis. Resistance training can help build up the area around the knee which will help your body move effectively without the painful effects of osteoarthritis.
It becomes more challenging to prevent knee osteoarthritis all together. Because it is a condition caused by the natural wear and tear on the joints as well as the effects of aging, many adults will experience some form of osteoarthritis.
Dietary changes for osteoarthritis
Some dietary changes can help prevent pain, however. Foods considered anti-inflammatory can help reduce the pain caused by knee osteoarthritis.
Some of these foods include:
- Fish, such as tuna and salmon
- Organic fruits and vegetables
- Nuts and seeds
- Whole grains
Another food that may help decrease the progression of knee osteoarthritis is milk.
Is milk the magic bullet for women’s osteoarthritis of the knee?
Researchers are always looking for new treatments to help patients suffering from common conditions such as knee osteoarthritis. We’ve always known that milk is important for strong bones, but a recent study published by the American College of Rheumatology has shown just how important milk can be for women dealing with the effects of knee osteoarthritis.
While there is no magic cure, the study published in the ACR journal demonstrated that women who consume fat free or low fat milk can delay the effects of knee osteoarthritis. However, cheese actually increased the effects while yogurt did not impact the condition in any way. The researchers suggest that more studies need to be conducted to understand exactly how milk impacted the condition, but the initial information is promising.
The study included 888 men who, after consuming milk and following up on their knee osteoarthritis, did not see any effect from consuming any dairy products. However, as the 1,260 women in the study increased their consumption of milk they saw a decrease in the joint space width which can cause the pain of knee osteoporosis.
The study is unclear on why cheese impacted the condition negatively and yogurt had no effect. However, simply adding skim or 1% fat milk to your diet could help decrease the pain caused by knee osteoarthritis. Even though researchers are still looking into the effects of milk on knee osteoarthritis, the bone health benefits of drinking milk are definitely valid. Adding low fat or nonfat milk into your diet may be a smart choice long term. Healthy bones are an important step for reducing pain caused by these types of conditions.
Knee osteoarthritis exercises
Several studies have shown that staying active can actually benefit an individual with osteoarthritis of the knee. It increases the strength and mobility in the muscles around the affected joints and can relieve pressure and pain. Arthritis can also cause fatigue and even depression. When the pain and emotional effects are at their worst, it can feel impossible to try to add physical activity to the day. However, even the smallest effort to increase activity can help patients dealing with arthritis pain and the mental effects of it.
While it may seem as though additional physical exercise would exacerbate the pain in the joints the opposite can actually be true. Not only will it help strengthen the muscles surrounding the affected joints, exercise can also help you:
- Maintain bone strength
- Increase energy throughout the day
- Allow for better sleep
- Reduce weight and take stress off painful joints
- Improve your overall well-being
In fact, studies have demonstrated that a lack of exercise actually increases the stiffness and pain in joints associated with arthritis. The most important benefit of exercise is keeping the muscles and tissues around the joints strong. Without exercise, the additional stress is centered on the already painful joints.
There are several gentle and low-impact exercises that can benefit someone dealing with osteoarthritis of the knee pain. Always talk to a doctor before starting these or any other new exercise programs. Once cleared by your doctor, you can try the following knee osteoarthritis exercises.
Yoga for arthritis
This Indian meditative practice has become quite popular in the United States over the last few decades. It emphasizes gentle stretching of the muscles and increased flexibility through a series of poses that can be adapted to any ability level.
As your flexibility increases and pain decreases, more complex poses can be learned so the overall benefits can be steadily increased. Yoga is great when done in groups, especially if you are a beginner, but it can also be easily adapted and done in your home. Besides the physical benefits of yoga, the meditative aspects help restore peace of mind and can help with depression and anxiety which is sometimes present in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee.
Before any yoga class, talk to the instructor and let them know about your condition. They’ll be able to provide guidance on which poses to avoid and which to modify to protect your knees.
A walk around the block is a great start for someone who doesn’t have much experience with exercise. Walking, like yoga, can start out slow and small and increase over time as the muscles begin to gain strength and stamina.
Wear comfortable walking shoes and start out by taking a short walk around your block. Gently increase the distance and speed as you are willing and able. This is especially good for osteoarthritis of the knees pain. Walking is also often more fun with a buddy or you can plug into favorite music on your phone and relax as you go. Another benefit of walking is getting outside in nature.
The body is buoyant in water. This helps take pressure off already painful joints while still strengthening the muscles and other tissues. The resistance of the water also increases the way the muscles respond to exercise.
Swimming, water aerobics, and other water workouts can be a great way to enjoy a low-pain workout. If you have your own pool you can simply swim laps. Otherwise, a community pool or joining a gym can give you access to a pool. Many community centers offer water aerobics classes as well.
Much like yoga, this Chinese martial art is meditative and focuses on motion. Unlike some of the other martial arts, such as karate and judo, tai chi focuses on the breath and fluid motion to help center the mind and body. The stretches are sometimes more gentle than typical yoga poses so it can be a good alternative for individuals who find that stretching increases stress on their joints. Classes should be available at your local community center.
While you may never become a muscle bound weight lifter, weight training is actually very good for building up the muscles around the knee when done correctly.
Just like with walking, weight training should start very slowly and then increase as your muscles respond to the exercise. The most important thing to consider with weight training is safety. Don’t try to lift more than you are able to. And work with a trainer at first to help ensure that you are lifting correctly.
However, you may start by using small dumbbells in your own home to learn curls. This is especially good for people who also have arthritis pain in their hands, wrists, or elbows.
The gentle, rounded motion of pedaling is very gentle on the knees. Biking in your neighborhood or on an easy trail can be a fun way to strengthen the muscles in the knees and decrease pain. You can also get the same benefits if you choose to use a stationary bike, either upright or recumbent, in your home or at a local gym.
Before starting an exercise program discuss your condition with your doctor. They can help you determine which exercise routine can provide the most benefit for your specific needs.
Treatments for knee pain from osteoarthritis
Besides these lifestyle interventions, you have other more advanced treatment options for osteoarthritis of the knee. If exercise and diet isn’t cutting it, talk to your doctor about the following options. While surgery is an option for patients with severe cases of osteoarthritis of the knee, many of these treatments can help you avoid surgery for years.
Physical therapy has the same benefits of exercise, but the therapy is targeted on building up the muscles around your knee and reducing your pain. Working with a qualified physical therapist can be an important, non-invasive approach to treating your pain.
Knee brace for osteoarthritis
Many patients with osteoarthritis of the knee use knee braces while they exercise. These can reduce pain and give patients the stability they need. Check out our post “10 Of The Best Knee Braces For Arthritis Pain” for a ranked list of the best knee braces on the market.
Knee joint injections
Finally, injections for knee osteoarthritis are a minimally-invasive option that many patients love. They can manage both stiffness and knee pain that develops as a result of inflammation or osteoarthritis of the knee. The procedure takes just a few minutes, is extremely safe, and results can last for months. To find out more, watch a procedure in the video below, or check our page on knee joint injections for more information.
If you’re ready to get relief for your osteoarthritis knee pain, it’s time to call in the experts. You can find a highly-qualified pain specialist in your area by clicking the button below. They’ll work closely with you to create a treatment plan that combines holistic lifestyle changes with cutting-edge interventional therapies.