Managing Knee Osteoarthritis
Managing Osteoarthritis in the Knee: Tips for Daily Life
There are several lifestyle modifications, medications, and adaptive techniques you might consider that can alleviate symptoms and ease your ability to live with knee osteoarthritis. These changes are relatively easy, inexpensive, and can pay dividends on your quality of life. Consider the following strategies and incorporate them into your daily routine to potentially delay the need for surgery such as knee replacement.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight. Excess weight places added stress on your knee joints which must bear the brunt of those extra pounds. The added pressure can worsen the wear and tear in the knee. The flip side is that weight loss can have profound benefits to improving your symptoms. In fact, one study demonstrated that one pound of weight loss resulted in four pounds of load taken off the knee with each step of walking(1). Practically, this means that losing just 10 pounds equates to 48,000 pounds of pressure removed from each knee per mile walked. That is a big improvement!
- Regular Exercise. Sometimes the pain from arthritis can get in the way of exercise. While pain may limit some of the fitness activities you might have done years ago, most patients can find one or more low-impact aerobic activities that work for them. These may include walking, swimming, cycling, or use of an elliptical at the gym. Staying active can also strengthen the muscles around the knee, improving support and stability.
- Balanced Diet. Diet is as equally important as exercise. Try adopting an anti-inflammatory diet high in fruits, vegetables, and omega-3 fatty acids (healthy fats). The easiest way to start is to cut out processed foods and sugars (mainly those that come straight out of a package). Drink lots of water and try eating smaller portions. Adopting a plant-based diet may improve inflammation in your body and ease arthritis symptoms(2).
- Joint Protection. Be mindful of your symptoms and avoid provoking pain when the knee is hurting. Avoid activities that place extra strain on the knee and try assistive devices like canes and braces when needed.
- Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help alleviate knee arthritis symptoms. However, be aware of side effects such as stomach upset or medication interactions and always consult your primary physician prior to taking these for prolonged periods.
- Topical Treatments. Consider topical treatments like diclofenac (VoltarenÒ) gel or capsaicin cream for localized pain relief. Sometimes these creams and gels can help.
- Heat and Cold Therapy. Apply heat and cold to reduce pain and inflammation, particularly at the end of the day. Experiment what works best for you, try 20 minute application time followed by 20 minutes rest and repeat. Protect your skin from direct contact by applying a cloth underneath the heat or cold.
- Assistive Devices. Canes or braces can reduce stress on your joints. These tools can provide additional support and stability during daily activities.
- Proper Footwear. Invest in comfortable, supportive shoes that provide adequate cushioning. Tennis shoes are usually best. Good footwear can help distribute weight more evenly and alleviate discomfort.
- Joint Friendly Activities. Choose gentle activities for your joints. Swimming, stationary bike, elliptical are all excellent choices that increase your heart rate to keep you active but don’t overload your knees.
Seek Professional Help
- Physical Therapy. Having a therapist work with you on strengthening, flexibility, and home exercises can be very helpful. In fact, there is high quality research demonstrating the benefits of physical therapy on knee arthritis symptoms; treatment with physical therapy may delay the need for surgical intervention(3).
- Regular Checkups. Regularly consult with Dr. Obermeyer or a team member to monitor and discuss your symptoms and have surveillance X-rays to observe disease progression.
You are not alone in your journey in living with osteoarthritis. Having a comprehensive treatment plan that incorporates many of the above suggestions can ease pain and improve your daily function. While interventions like knee replacement can be enormously beneficial for many patients, it should only be used as a last resort when other effective treatments such as those listed have not worked.
Schedule a Knee Consultation
If your suffering from knee osteoarthritis, call our office or book an appointment with knee surgeon Dr. Thomas Obermeyer. Dr. Obermeyer specializes in diagnosing and treating knee osteoarthritis. Dr. Obermeyer has orthopedic offices in Schaumburg, Bartlett, and Elk Grove Village, Illinois. Dr. Obermeyer regularly sees patients from throughout Illinois including Hoffman Estates, Palatine, Elgin, Streamwood, Arlington Heights, and Roselle communities.
- Messier SP, Gutekunst DJ, Davis C, DeVita P. Weight loss reduces knee-joint loads in overweight and obese older adults with knee osteoarthritis. Arthritis Rheum. 2005 Jul;52(7):2026-32. doi: 10.1002/art.21139. PMID: 15986358.
- Dai Z. A literature review on plant-based foods and dietary quality in knee osteoarthritis. Eur J Rheumatol. 2022 May 10. doi: 10.5152/eurjrheum.2022.21134. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 35535585.
- Deyle GD, Henderson NE, Matekel RL, Ryder MG, Garber MB, Allison SC. Effectiveness of manual physical therapy and exercise in osteoarthritis of the knee. A randomized, controlled trial. Ann Intern Med. 2000 Feb 1;132(3):173-81. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-132-3-200002010-00002. PMID: 10651597.
At a Glance
Dr. Thomas Obermeyer
- 15+ years of training and experience treating complex shoulder and sports medicine conditions
- Expert subspecialized and board-certified orthopedic care
- Award-winning outstanding patient satisfaction scores
- Learn more