When you have knee arthritis it can be tempting to want to sit down all of the time because of the arthritis pain. But, doing this can cause more harm than good. Being active in a way that can reduce inflammation and help with treatment can actually help your knee pain.

Living with Arthritis: Move More or Move Less?

If you have chronic knee pain, you’re going to want to get up and get moving. Even if you have sensitive knees, you can still walk and get moderate exercise. Following a regular walking program can help to reduce inflammation and stiffness. The CDC recommends walking as the preferred exercise for people with arthritis. This is because it can improve your arthritis symptoms and help you have a better quality of life.

Should You Walk When You Have Knee Pain?

Yes! If you have knee pain caused by Osteoarthritis (OA), walking can help to lubricate the joints. Moving your knee joints is good for you because it can improve stiffness and relieve knee joint pain over time.

You don’t have to take a long walk for this to be effective. Those with moderate to severe joint pain should walk at an easy pace to start. As you get stronger, you can increase your pace and endurance.  But, if there is excruciating pain, the inflammation may need professional treatment and a physical examination.  Request an appointment with your doctor and get a symptoms diagnosis for treating knee pain.

For those who have occasional knee pain after walking, take a day off or go for a shorter walk until you build up your strength. If walking still hurts too much, you may want to try another form of exercise for an arthritic knee that is less stressful for the knees. Many people opt for cycling or swimming.

Why Walking Is Good for Your Knees

Walking is good for your knees because it helps the cartilage in your knee joint to get the nourishment it needs to stay healthy. Cartilage relies on joint fluid for nutrition because it doesn’t have a blood supply that is constantly nourished by the heart’s pumping action.

When you walk and exercise regularly, you are maintaining and building muscle. This helps your bone health and your strength.

Tips for Walking When You Have Sensitive Knees to relieve pain

When you have knee arthritis or sensitive knees, there are things you can do to make walking more enjoyable and less painful.

  • Choose the right shoes

Look for shoes that are flat and flexible and that have a wide toe box. They should be bendable in the forefoot with a low heel-to-toe drop. Choose heels that are ¾ inch or less.

  • Warm up

Start slowly to get moving and then pick up your pace if you feel comfortable. Some people like to apply heat to their joints before walking to help with the pain.

  • Lose excess weight

People who are overweight put added stress on their knees. Losing weight will reduce that stress and make it easier to walk.

  • Keep moving

When you sit down for a long time, your knee joint can get stiff. Get up and move every 15 minutes to keep that joint fluid flowing.

  • Walk on softer surfaces

When you walk on softer surfaces, it’s easier on the joints. Choose a cinder track or asphalt instead of concrete.

  • Try walking aids

Some people use a cane or walking poles to reduce joint fatigue and increase stability.

  • Try shoe inserts

Arch supports are a big no-no when you have sensitive knees. Shoes with a high arch are also not good because you want your foot to be able to move as naturally as possible. Over-the-counter orthotics can help to give you support to make walking more comfortable.

If you are walking with knee arthritis try one or several of these tips to help get you moving in the right direction.

Types of knee arthritis

Arthritis of the knee can be classified into different types, each causing different kinds of discomfort.

Osteoarthritis of the knee

Knee osteoarthritis most common type of knee arthritis. It is a progressive condition that is caused when the knee cartilage gradually wears away. This type of knee joint damage usually happens during mid-life.

Post-traumatic arthritis

When knee arthritis is due to injuries to the knee such as sports injuries, it falls into this category. It can result from a knee fracture, torn ligament, or torn meniscus. Symptoms can sometimes appear years after the initial knee injury.

Gouty arthritis

Gouty arthritis is a severe inflammation that usually affects one joint at a time. It occurs when there is a high level of uric acid in your blood. Swelling and pain in the joints are common symptoms. Gout can also affect the ankles or feet.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. It affects the entire body and can involve other joints. This type of arthritis can occur at any age.

Symptoms of the different types of knee arthritis

There are a variety of symptoms that could signal you are suffering from a form of knee arthritis. These include:

1.      Gradual increase in pain

At first, the pain may be minimal and may only happen when you climb the stairs or when you sit down. Gradually, this pain increases and may even wake you up from your sleep. This can be a symptom of osteoarthritis.

For those with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the pain can start in smaller joins and can be warm to the touch and red. Symptoms can appear over several weeks or can appear more gradually over several years.  Cold weather, stress, and too much activity can all lead to a flare-up.

2.      Swelling or tenderness

Those with osteoarthritis of the knee may notice a hard swelling due to bone spurs or a softer swelling that is due to inflammation. Swelling may be worse first thing in the morning.

People with rheumatoid arthritis will also experience joint swelling or tenderness. They may also develop a fever or feel extremely tired since RA is an autoimmune disease.

3.      Buckling and locking

As the knee joint gets damaged over time, it can begin to buckle and become unstable. RA can damage the tendons which can lead to an unstable knee joint.

4.      Cracking or popping sounds

When you lose some of the cartilage in your knee you may begin to notice some cracking and popping sounds. As the cartilage becomes more damaged, rough surfaces and bone spurs can develop.

5.      Poor range of motion

People with osteoarthritis or with a knee injury will begin to experience a poor range of motion because of the changes to the cartilage and bone. This can make it hard to walk and stand up. Those with RA may have swelling that makes it hard to bend and flex their knee. Some people end up needing a cane or walker to help them stay balanced and to keep moving.

6.      Loss of joint space

At times, a knee X-ray is needed to determine loss of joint space. This happens as the cartilage gets damaged and wears away, leaving a space around the bones.

7.      Knee deformities

Knee deformities can range from hardly noticeable to severe. For those with osteoarthritis, the muscles around the knee can start to weaken. This can make them appear sunken in or bent outward. With RA patients, continual inflammation can lead to permanent cartilage and tendon damage. This can alter the knee’s shape and appearance.

Treatment for arthritis in the knee

Treatment for knee arthritis can vary depending on the severity and type of arthritis. Here are some common treatments:

  • Walking and other physical activity
  • Hot or cold compresses
  • Acupuncture
  • Weight loss-attain a healthy weight
  • Topical creams (Capsaicin)
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Using shoe inserts or walking aids

Physical therapy

Many times a combination of treatments is necessary. Once you are diagnosed with a specific type of knee arthritis, your doctor can recommend the course of treatment that will work best for you.