Does Physio Help Knee Arthritis?

What is knee osteoarthritis?

Knee osteoarthritis is the result of wear and tear, and progressive loss of joint cartilage. Osteoarthritis can affect any joint, however the knee is the most commonly affected. Pain may limit your walking or your ability to go up and down stairs.

It is a progressive disease that most commonly occurs in people over the age of 55. Previous joint injury or being overweight can increase your risk of developing OA. Although the underlying disease process cannot be reversed, there are many conservative modalities that can be used to reduce pain and optimise function in the knee.

What are the symptoms of knee osteoarthritis?

  • Knee pain that is gradual in onset and worsens with activity
  • Stiffness and swelling in the knee
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Pain after prolonged sitting or resting

People with knee osteoarthritis often limit their movement, in fear that it will aggravate their pain. However if you don’t move, the ligaments, tendons and muscles around the knee can become tight and weak, meaning the knee joint is not well supported. This can then lead to more pain, difficulty with balance, and limping to walk.

How does physio help knee arthritis?

The aim of physiotherapy is to improve your function, and make daily tasks easier such as going up stairs, getting out of a chair, or walking longer distances.

Conservative management is the best first line treatment for knee osteoarthritis- this includes Physiotherapy and exercise. Surgical intervention such as a total knee replacement should only be considered if conservative methods have failed over a long period of time. Referral to a surgeon should be based on significant decline in quality of life due to end-stage joint arthritis.

Physiotherapy involves a variety of treatments to help relieve your pain. This may include soft tissue massage, joint mobilisations, ultrasound, heat packs and TENS. Your Physiotherapist will educate you on ways to put less stress through the knee, and give advice on what you can do at home to help relieve the pain- such as wearing a knee support or using heat packs. They can also prescribe you with orthotics if appropriate, to help shift your weight and unload the pressure through the knee joint. They will also prescribe you with a comprehensive exercise program consisting of stretches and strengthening exercises to help you restore function and get you back to the activities you love.

Stretching and range of motion exercises

Stretching and range of motion exercises help maintain the flexibility of your joints. Stretching your muscles prevents them from pulling too hard on the joint, which helps to decrease pain.

Strengthening exercises

Strengthening exercises help to reduce the load on the joint. When your muscles are stronger, they work more efficiently and are able to better support the joint.

Endurance exercises

As your strength improves, endurance exercises would then be prescribed. Training your muscles to work more efficiently for a sustained period of time allows you to get back to activities that you love such as going on long walks.

Improve your general fitness

To help improve your general fitness, we recommend low impact exercise such as walking, cycling, and swimming. It is important to engage in low impact exercise so that there is less force going through the joint, to avoid aggravating your pain. Other low impact exercises you could try are aqua-aerobics or Tai Chi.

Weight management is also strongly recommended for people with knee OA. Weight loss is effective because it reduces the load going through the joint. Research has found that every kilo of weight reduces the force going through the knee by twice the amount. Exercise is therefore an important aspect of managing your weight, and is strongly recommended for all people with knee OA.

If you are suffering from knee pain and have any further questions, give us a call on 9875 3760 or email info@wphphysio.com.au. We would be more than happy to help!

If you need physical therapy to relieve
your pain, and would like some more
information, feel free to contact us!

Give us a call on (02) 9875 3760 or email
info@wphphysio.com.au. We would
be more than happy to help you.