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Treating Knee Osteoarthritis with Physical Therapy

Treating Knee Osteoarthritis with Physical Therapy

Knee osteoarthritis is a physical condition where the cartilage between your joints starts wearing away. As this happens, the bones of your knee joint closely rub against each other. Since they are deprived of the shock-absorbing advantages of your cartilage, the constant rubbing results in knee pain, swelling, and stiffness, as well as decreased range of motion of the knee.

According to The Arthritis Foundation approximately 27 million individuals in America suffer from osteoarthritis, with the knees being commonly affected. If you’ve been diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis, you might be looking for a solution to deal with your symptoms, and physical therapy is an ideal option for dealing with this often-debilitating condition.

Types of Exercises for Treating Knee Osteoarthritis

Stretching Exercises

Beginning with stretching exercises is ideal if you haven’t been active in a while, as they can help to significantly reduce your knee pain while increasing knee flexibility. You can perform yoga, Pilates or specific stretches recommended by your physical therapist as part of a daily stretching program.

Strengthening Exercises

These exercises help in increasing the strength of the muscles that support your knees. Performing at least 15 minutes of strengthening exercises each day will provide you with optimal results. Initially, your physical therapist may recommend using your own body weight as resistance, and as your strength improves, they may recommend adding weights or using weight machines to increase resistance.

Aerobic training

Simple exercises like taking short walks or swimming can add an entirely different dimension to your overall training schedule. They’ll not just keep you fit, but also improve your overall strength and flexibility.

Best exercises To Treat Knee Osteoarthritis

Here are some of the best exercises that can effectively treat knee osteoarthritis.

Quadriceps Stretch Exercise

You can try stretching your quadriceps once in a while in order to ease the pain in your knee joints. Here’s how you can perform this exercise -

  • Begin standing with your feet approximately hip-width apart
  • Try bending your right knee as you hold the upper part of your right foot with your hand
  • Stretch your right heel and try bringing it close to your buttocks. If you’re just starting out, you can also use some kind of support (a wall, for instance) in order to maintain your balance
  • Hold this position for 15 to 20 seconds
  • Alternate sides
  • Aim for 2 sets of 3 repetitions of this stretch on each side

Calf Stretch Exercise

This moderately difficult exercise goes a long way in keeping your knees mobile and flexible. Here’s what you need to do in order to perform this exercise-

  • Begin by standing in front of a chair and hold it to maintain your balance
  • Bend your right leg
  • Step back with your left leg and start straightening it
  • Put some pressure and touch the floor with your left heel
  • At this point, you will feel a stretching sensation at the back of your leg
  • Hold the position for 15 to 20 seconds
  • Alternate sides
  • Aim for 2 sets of 3 repetitions of this stretch on each side

Hamstring Stretch

This stretch reduces your knee pain by loosening your tight hamstrings. You can perform this exercise by following these steps-

  • Begin by lying on your back on the floor
  • Straighten your legs
  • Now gently lift your right leg and start pulling it in the direction of your chest, until you feel a comfortable stretch in the back of your thigh
  • Hold this position for 15 to 20 seconds
  • Slowly return to the starting position
  • Alternate sides
  • Aim for 2 sets of 3 repetitions of this stretch on each side

** In case you find this stretch extremely intense, try slightly bending your knee


Physical therapy, including stretching and strengthening exercises, as well as participating in some form of aerobic exercise can help to treat symptoms of knee osteoarthritis and keep you mobile. However, if your symptoms persist, a consultation with one of the physical therapists at Blue Hills Sports & Spine Rehabilitation can help to ensure that you’re performing the exercises correctly, and they can also recommend additional therapies such as manual therapy and modalities including ultrasound, interferential therapy, etc. that may further improve your symptoms.