By Dr. Jessica Warnecke, PT, DPT, OCS
Did you know, the lifetime risk for developing symptomatic knee osteoarthritis is forty-five percent?! And the prevalence for this condition has doubled since the 1950's! (1)
Part of this, most likely, is due to our longer lifespans, but changes in food sources, diet, and activity levels may also be playing a role.
Often times when someone hears that their “bones are degenerating” or that their knee joint is “bone on bone,” it instills fear and worry about daily limitations, pain, or the need for surgery. However, this does not have to be the case. Not only can physical therapy help decrease pain caused by knee osteoarthritis, it can work towards strength and increased mobility that will prevent this condition from limiting daily life all together.
Knee osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis in the knee, occurs when the protective cartilage on the ends of the bones wears down over time. It affects an estimated fourteen million people, fifty percent of which are under the age of sixty-five; however, the risk for this condition does increase with age.(1) Any number of things can lead to knee osteoarthritis including progressive inflammation, damage to the bony structures of the knee joint at a younger age from a sports injury, heavy lifting, or from participating in an activity with repetitive stress on the joint.
Knee osteoarthritis can affect many parts of our everyday life including: causing pain when going up or down stairs, pain with walking for extended periods of time, trouble getting in or out of the car, difficulty getting up off the ground, and limitations when kneeling or squatting. All of these can be a result of muscle weakness, decreased range of motion, poor alignment of the knee, hip, or ankle, or excess weight, which are addressed by a good physical therapist!
A physical therapist might provide the following treatment to reduce knee pain:
The primary goal with early onset strengthening is to build a foundation and prepare for higher level functional training in a pain free manner. Knee osteoarthritis is a very treatable condition! Even though we can’t stop the normal aging process, strengthening our leg muscles helps reduce or prevent pain, allowing you to do your regular daily activities, and reduce the need for surgery such as a total joint replacement in the future.
Every person has a unique situation, and every body is different from another. So it is very valuable to find a therapist who looks at YOU as the individual, listens to your history, and works towards the goals that are important to your life.
Here are some examples of functional strengthening that can be performed for knee pain:
Keep in mind, without hearing your story and assessing your body, I cannot know what specific exercises are most appropriate for you and what the best sets/reps/weight are to start. If you’re dealing with aggravating knee pain due to the wear and tear of aging or your daily activities, I highly recommend getting a consult with an orthopedic PT!
I have more information and tips to reduce generalized knee pain in my eBook, "6 Simple Ways to Reduce Knee Pain And Improve Function". Request a FREE copy below or send me an email with any questions you may have!
1. Arthritis by the Numbers: Book of Trusted Facts & Figures. (2017, November 27). Retrieved April 26, 2019, from https://www.arthritis.org/Documents/Sections/About-Arthritis/arthritis-facts-stats-figures.pdf
Meet Your Therapist
Jessica has been in Austin, TX for the past four years. She grew up in Idaho and attended PT school at Idaho State University. She completed an Orthopaedic Residency and became a Board Certified Orthopaedic Clinical Specialist in 2016.