Walking eases pain of knee osteoarthritis

Walking eases pain of knee osteoarthritis

Talk about a dilemma – your knees hurt so bad that you’d rather just sit and not think about having to move.  But remaining immobile is not the thing to do for knee pain.  Those suffering from osteoarthritis (OA) in the knees may mistakenly believe they should avoid walking due to the pain felt in that area.  However, the more they walk the less risk there is with functional limitations.


A leading cause of limiting everyday functioning from walking to climbing a flight of stairs is OA of the knee.  This physical limitation presents a dilemma for anyone who has to deal with the debilitating pain preventing them from doing simple things many of us take for granted such as getting in and out of vehicles to standing while making meals to running errands involving walking. 

Unfortunately, less than one third of physicians recommend exercise to their patients with OA.  If the physician does recommend exercise it is usually in the form physical therapy which does and can help but many people with OA abandon any further training once the structured physical therapy program they were doing is done. 

What studies recommend

A study published in Arthritis Care and Research wanted to find out if people with OA of the knee did unstructured physical activity on their own in the form of walking, would it provide benefits for the person’s knee.

The researchers used 1,788 participants who either had OA of the knee or were at risk for the condition but with no functional limitation at the start of the study.

What was found the participants who walked at least 6,000 steps a day – measured by an activity monitor over 7 days – were least likely to develop mobility issues two years later.  They avoided common everyday activities many of those with OA of the knee experience such as slowed walking, problems getting up from a chair, using stairs, and doing household chores.

The authors concluded that the more steps a day taken by someone with OA of the knee, the greater the protection against developing limitations on basic functioning.  It was recommended that if a person is just starting out with a daily walking program, to ease into it by initially having a starting goal of 3,000 steps a day with 6,000 steps a day to be their ideal goal.  Walking for OA of the knee is also an inexpensive means of physical activity that most people can do in a variety of settings.

Why walking helps

For those with OA, you may be hesitant to begin taking up walking.  The discomfort felt is due to inflammation in your knee but once you ease into walking, it should begin to feel better with time.

Here is why walking is good for easing the pain of knee OA:

·      Rebuilds joints – Having OA can lead to damage of cartilage in the knee which is the springy tissue in your joints acting as a shock absorber for the knee.  This is what leads to pain, stiffness, and trouble with moving.  Walking can help rebuild the joint since cartilage is like a sponge.  As you walk, it receives nutrients from the compression and decompression of your body weight.

·      Builds leg strength – The muscles in your legs need to be strong to help take the pressure off your joints and to handle more weight themselves.  This is where walking comes in – it strengthens your legs resulting in less pain for your knees.

·      Helps you lose weight – For every pound you lose, there’s four times less pressure and stress on your knees. Less pressure means less pain.  And your joints won’t hurt nearly as bad.  Plus walking is a low-impact way to help you lose excess weight.

Before taking up walking for OA, talk to your doctor for their approval. Make sure you have good walking shoes and if you experience soreness or swelling, lie down with your legs elevated putting ice on your knees.

Our bodies are made to move and being mobile has a healing effect in and of itself.  It will not be unusual to feel a little achy after walking at first, but keep at it and you will see good results not only in your knees but in how your whole body feels.