Experiencing knee pain can limit your tolerance to walking. Osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee is one of the leading causes of functional limitations. The knee pain caused by OA frequently leads to the need for a total knee replacement. Walking, however, can be a non-pharmacological knee injury treatment for those with knee osteoarthritis.
What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a normal bodily condition caused by wear and tear to the body, which leads to the deterioration of joint cartilage. This leaves bones unprotected, and eventually, the joint’s deterioration can become so extreme that it leaves bone to rub against bone. Unfortunately, there are no means for entirely reversing arthritis that has already developed. However, and more importantly, there is something you can do about it. Research has shown that physical therapy and exercise can have positive results in reducing the impairments and pain caused by osteoarthritis.
Exercise to Improve Motion and Strength
Walking vigorously for 5-10 minutes is now being recommended as a treatment for knee osteoarthritis and may limit the need for a joint replacement. Walking is an activity that does not require any equipment and can help reduce stiffness and inflammation in the knee joints. Since there is no blood supply in the knee joint, this area relies on the movement of the joint to move fluid. This fluid helps to provide nutrition to the joint. Walking is a weight-bearing exercise that also helps to improve bone health. Walking vigorously has been found to delay the need for a knee replacement for those at risk of developing functional limitations as a result of knee arthritis. There was a decrease in the incidence of knee replacement for those that participate in a regular walking program than those that did not.
Starting a Walking Program for Knee Health
To maintain the health of your knee joints, it is recommended to walk a range of 3,000-6,000 steps per day, or 5-10 minutes of moderate to vigorous walking. If you are starting a walking program, take it easy at first. Start at a pace that is comfortable for you. You can either start by walking for five minutes or, if you received a new step tracker over the holidays, try for around 3,000 steps. As your strength and endurance improve, you can walk up to 10 minutes a day or around 6,000 steps. A study published in the journal of Arthritis Care & Research is often cited quoting that people who walked 6,000 steps a day on average were less likely to have problems standing, walking, and climbing stairs two years later. Every 1,000 steps added to a person’s day reduced their risk of mobility loss by 16 to 18 percent.
Proper Shoes to Support Your Knees
Walking on a track or asphalt will have a slight decrease in the impact on the knees. If this is still too much, walking in a pool is an excellent form of exercise that limits the impact on the joints.
Takeaway; Just Get Moving
With more than 600,000 knee replacements performed every year, many people were unsure if walking would have any effect on increasing or decreasing the need for knee replacement. When taking into account the intensity and duration of walking, there was not an increase in structural damage to worsen knee pain. The decrease in knee replacement frequency was most noted between those that walked and those that did not participate in any physical activity.
If you do have knee pain, physical therapy is a great place to start to get you moving again. You will be provided a knee injury treatment plan with safe exercises that focus on improving function and minimizing the effects of knee arthritis. Start by requesting an appointment at any of our valley-wide Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy clinics.