Maintain function and reduce pain with exercises for hip and knee osteoarthritis

May 1, 2018


Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common joint disorder in the United States, and among the leading causes of global disability.  Although OA, the wearing away of joint cartilage, has no cure, early treatment reduces progression. One treatment option, physical therapy, helps to maintain function and reduce pain.


Signs and symptoms

Hip and knee OA cause pain with movement, and later in the course of the condition, pain at rest or at night.  The person with hip OA feels pain deep in the hip joint, or along the inside or front of the thigh, and the person with knee OA feels pain deep in the knee joint.  Both experience stiffness after rest (getting up in the morning or after prolonged sitting), and have limited joint motion.


Interventions (your physical therapist determines the appropriate interventions and instructs on correct performance)

Examples of interventions include:

  • Exercises to maintain joint motion and leg strength, and reduce pain.  

    • Exercise therapy is as effective as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Ibuprofen) and two to three times more effective than acetaminophen (Tylenol) in reducing pain in knee OA.  

    • Three or more exercise therapy sessions per week (combination of supervised exercises and home exercise program) are more effective than less than two sessions per week in addressing symptoms and impairments.  

  • Lifestyle modifications

    • Lower weight

    • Increase physical activity (follow the CDC guidelines of at least 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity exercise).  Exercise also has the benefit of preventing other chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease without the long term side effects of pain medication.  

    • Change the intensity (reduce weekly running mileage) or type (from running to biking or swimming) of recreational activities to reduce impact on joints.

    • If walking with a limp, use an assistive device (such as a cane or walker) to reduce impact on joints.


Get in touch to start your exercise therapy program today.

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