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Exercise and the Arthritic Knee

The pain of knee arthritis can make it difficult to exercise, even just to walk. Patients with knee arthritis are oftentimes interested in exercising, but not sure how to go about it due to pain. Avoidance of exercise due to pain can lead to a vicious cycle: exercise is avoided due to pain, the muscles around the knee weaken and motion is lost, and the pain increases. Arthritis means that the knee is losing cartilage, and exercise doesn’t stop or reverse this process. Maintaining as much motion and strength as possible, however, does help patients tolerate their arthritis better. On top of this, appropriate exercise does not accelerate the arthritic process.

One of the keys to exercising with an arthritic knee is to focus on non-weight bearing exercise. If the daily walk has been put on the shelf due to pain, other activities are worth trying. This could be swimming or pool workouts, light weightlifting, bicycling, even rowing. If you aren’t sure how to go about this, our local Door County YMCA is a great resource with numerous classes and staff more than willing to help you get started. Another resource I’ve found useful for my patients is a home exercise program to specifically strengthen the muscles around the knee. Sometimes a more structured approach is needed, and our physical therapists do a great job teaching a home maintenance program to preserve strength and range of motion.

Don’t get me wrong: not everybody can find a type of exercise that agrees with their arthritic knee, but many can. If you’ve given up working out due to arthritic knee pain, it’s worth mixing things up and focusing on non-weight bearing exercise. There’s no guarantee, but many people are able to continue to reap the numerous benefits of exercise by switching things up.

Mark Jordan, MD
About Dr. Mark Jordan

Dr. Mark Jordan provides orthopedic services at Door Orthopedic Center in Sturgeon Bay. The Door Orthopedic Center at Door County Medical Center is a state-of-the-art facility paired with a top-notch orthopedic team that can get you back to daily living and your favorite activities as soon as possible. To schedule an appointment at Door County Medical Center's Door Orthopedic Center, visit our Door Orthopedic Center page or call Door County Medical Center at 920-743-5566.

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