Osteoarthritis Knee Pain Should Not Be a Barrier to Exercise


Don’t use your sore knees as an excuse to stop exercising—that’s the message from a recent study by Canadian researchers published in 2019 in Arthritis Care & Research.

Overall, people with knee osteoarthritis (OA) get too little physical activity, several studies show, with many saying it simply hurts too much to get up and move. But it’s not clear from research whether exercising worsens pain.

To better understand this link, scientists asked 59 men and women with knee OA to wear devices called accelerometers that counted how many steps they took each day for three years. Participants also periodically filled out questionnaires that asked them to rate their pain levels.

At the end of the study, the researchers found that there was no association between how much pain a person reported and how many steps he or she took on a given day. In other words, pain was not a barrier to physical activity. However, three factors did appear to reduce physical activity: older age, higher body mass index (a measure of body fat), and bad weather (step totals were lower in winter).

Contrary to what some might believe, movement can often help reduce knee pain. You can’t lower your age, but you can lose weight and find a way to exercise when it’s too cold for a stroll in the park, such as mall walking.