Easy Ways to Exercise Away the Pain of Knee Arthritis

Quincy AdamArthritis Exercise, Arthritis Lifestyle, Exercise

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Living with knee arthritis can be difficult and painful. Too often, you are limited to an amount of activity each day. Due to the pain associated with arthritis, performing activities of daily living (ADLs) becomes difficult. Sometimes these activities, as well as exercise, take a back seat.

Knee Arthritis Explained

One of the most common forms of osteoarthritis is of the knee. Knee arthritis is a very painful condition in which the cartilage, synovial fluid, and ligamentous tissue surrounding the knee deteriorates.

Some have described this condition to be a form of wear-and-tear brought on by aging, but knee arthritis can affect people at any age, especially if they are overweight or obese. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that knee arthritis is most prevalent among older individuals. In fact, one in every two older adults can expect to experience some symptoms associated with knee arthritis.1 Pain is the most common symptom.

Exercise for Pain Management

Holistically speaking, exercise is a great start for pain management. A recent study on exercise for knee arthritis performed by the College of Family Physicians of Canada states that exercise is a highly recommended way to manage knee arthritis pain and it can even induce better functioning in the knee joint.2

Listed below are simple exercises that might help to control your knee arthritis pain. Consult with a physician or qualified healthcare provider prior to starting an exercise program. Discuss your intentions with a professional and monitor your pain levels at all times.

Easy Exercises for Your Knee Arthritis Pain

Strengthen Your Quads

Strengthening your leg muscles around the knee joint is one of the best ways to manage your knee arthritis pain. The leg extension machine is perfect for helping you learn the movement, and it simply involves extending your knee joint from a flexed position. Start out with three sets of 10 leg extensions on a leg extension machine and increase your weight in small increments once your final set becomes easy to finish. If you don’t have access to gym equipment, the same can be accomplish by sitting on a chair and using light weights on your thighs.


Your hamstrings are the supporting muscles in the back of your legs, meaning the stronger your hamstrings, the more cushion and protection your knee has. The leg curl machine is ideal for isolating your hamstring muscles. Using it, kick your heels to your glutes to cause a flexion in the knee joint. Start with a hamstring machine and perform three sets of ten reps. Increase your weight to progress once your third set becomes manageable. If you don’t have access to gym equipment, grab a chair. Stand behind and hold for balance and then perform the same exercise without weights.


Doing squats is a terrific way to add strength and increase range of motion. It’s important to do them right, though. If you don’t go to a gym, there are instructional videos online to help. Remember that your knee should NEVER extend beyond your toes, or you will do damage to your body. Start with body weight squats and if you experience pain during a particular range of motion, be careful as to not lower down as far on the next rep. Increasing your gluteal muscle mass will help functional activities that involve the knee joint. This exercise helps with one common activity — getting in and out of a chair.

Range of Motion

One of the most important causes of disability among those with knee arthritis is a limited range of motion.3 Due to this, it is crucial for you to stretch throughout the week, involving every joint in the body. In addition, do light range of motion activities such as leg kicks, knee bends, and light lateral movements to keep a full range of motion in your knee joint.

Pool Activities

Exercising in a heated pool is a great way to manage and exercise away the pain. Perform pool walking, knee bends, leg extensions, and squats in the pool to manage your knee arthritis pain. Exercise for thirty minutes every time you go to the pool to help reduce your pain.

Exercise Consistently

While knee arthritis pain can be physically limiting at times, exercise may be a way to help reduce your pain. Perform the simple exercises above throughout the week and exercise three days per week for thirty minutes each. If your schedule allows, exercise five days per week for thirty minutes each. Or better yet, check with your doctor for advice on an exercise plan that is best for you.

Find a Buddy

Exercise is much more fun with a friend. Find a good friend to exercise with you. With the buddy system, you are likely to keep up on your goals, and you both can help manage your knee arthritis pain together. As you exercise together, you’ll increase the strength of your hamstrings, quads and gluteal muscles and also extend your range of motion.

Murphy L, Schwartz TA, Helmick CG, et al. (2008). Lifetime risk of symptomatic knee osteoarthritis. Arthritis and Rheumatism, Vol. 59, Issue 9, pp. 1207-13, doi: 10.1002/art.24021.2 Bosomworth, NJ (2009). Exercise and knee osteoarthritis: benefit or hazard? Publication of The College of Family Physicians of Canada, Vol. 55, Issue 9, pp. 871-878. Available at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2743580/. Accessed October 14, 2015.

3 Steultjens MP, Dekker J, van Baar ME, et al. (2000). Range of joint motion and disability in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee or hip. Rheumatology, Vol. 39, Issue 9, pp. 955-61. Available at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10986299. Accessed October 14, 2015.