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What Is It?

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disorder which can be caused by either mechanical or inflammatory factors. This disorder may cause chronic pain, stiffness, limitation in range of motion, and decrease in participation in daily activities. Osteoarthritis (OA) may occur in the joints of the hands, feet, spine, and hips, but is most common in the knees. The risk of developing OA increases with age and women are more susceptible to developing it than men.

osteoarthritis knee


Osteoarthritis can’t be cured since it is a degenerative condition. However, the pain and discomfort caused by degeneration and inflammation can be treated conservatively. Your family doctor or orthopedic specialist may recommend corticosteroid injections into your joints or prescribe an appropriate dose of pain relievers.

During your visit with a physical therapist, you may be treated with modalities such as ultrasound therapy or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). Self-administered massage of the surrounding tissues can reduce stiffness and enable greater freedom of movement. In addition, there may be certain habits that can stop or slow the degenerative process, such as weight loss, cessation of smoking, and exercise—both general and specific. It is recommended to maintain a regimen of regular, low-impact physical activity such as walking and swimming.

In addition, specific drills which target the supporting tissues around the knee can help tighten ligaments and strengthen muscles. Here are a number of exercises that can help treat the pain, reduce stiffness, and get you back to your regular activities.


Hamstring Stretch


1) Lay on your back, preferably on a yoga mat on the floor, with legs straight

2) Wrap hands around the back of your knee on the affected leg

3) Pull your thigh towards your body

4) Once your thigh is at a 90° angle with the floor, straighten your knee so that the bottom of your foot is facing the ceiling

5) Hold for 30 seconds, then lower your leg to the starting position. Repeat 3 times.


– If you’re unable to fully straighten knee, try starting this exercise slower while breathing mindfully

– Make sure your hips do not lose contact with the floor when lifting your leg

– If this is too difficult, try to use a strap/belt to pull your leg instead of hands, or bend your other knee

– If this is too easy, lift the affected leg with straightened knee, or have the other leg hover above the floor

Heel Slides


1) Lay on your mat, supporting your upper body on your elbows, affected leg should be slightly bent

2) While keeping it on the ground, slowly slide the heel of the affect leg towards your body until reaching full flexion

3) Maintain the pose for 30 seconds while breathing mindfully

4) Slide your heel back until knee is fully straightened

5) Repeat 20 times, 2-3 sets


– You may feel pain, but you should stop this drill if the pain is intolerable

– If this is too difficult, try to use a strap/belt to bring your leg closer to your body

– If this is too easy, start with affected leg fully straight

One-leg Stand


1) Stand on the affected leg, bending the other in the air

2) Hold for 30 seconds, practice at least 4 sets


– Try concentrating on a specific point in space in order to keep your balance

– Maintain an erect torso

– This can be introduced into your daily routine, like while waiting for your food to heat up in the microwave or other similar activities

– If this is too difficult, try to support yourself on a wall or sturdy table, or use the gradual approach by standing with both legs on the ground, side-by-side, follow with standing with the big toe of one foot in the inner curve of the other foot, then with your feet in tandem, and finally on one foot.

If this is too easy:

  • Stand on an uneven surface, like on sand.
  • Stand in a single-leg-squat
  • Hold a weight
  • Close your eyes
  • Move or swing your other leg simultaneously

Seated Leg Press


1) Sit on a sturdy surface with both feet planted firmly on the ground

2) Wrap a band around one foot

3) Pull your foot such that your knee is raised up and towards your chest

4) Straighten knee while pushing your foot forward

5) Repeat 10 times for each leg, 4 sets a day, 3 days a week


– If this is too difficult, you can hold the band at its ends, reducing the resistance

– If this is too easy, you can shorten the band, increasing the resistance



1) Sit on a sturdy surface with both feet planted firmly on the ground and positioned slightly wider than shoulder-width

2) Lean trunk forward with hands reaching out

3) Lift bottom from chair so that you are hovering over your seat

4) Lower yourself ever so slightly, just barely touching the chair with your body

5) Return to hovering position

6) Repeat 5 times, 3 sets a day, 3 times a week


– Do not let your knees pass the line of your toes when in squat position

– Maintain an erect back throughout the movement

– If this is too difficult, sit on a higher surface

– If this is too easy, sit on a lower surface (such as a couch) or hold weights


 1) de Rooij, M., van der Leeden, M., Cheung, J., van der Esch, M., Häkkinen, A., Haverkamp, D., … & Dekker, J. (2017). Efficacy of tailored exercise therapy on physical functioning in patients with knee osteoarthritis and comorbidity: a randomized controlled trial. Arthritis care & research, 69(6), 807-816. Link 

 2) Deyle, G. D., Allison, S. C., Matekel, R. L., Ryder, M. G., Stang, J. M., Gohdes, D. D., … & Garber, M. B. (2005). Physical therapy treatment effectiveness for osteoarthritis of the knee: a randomized comparison of supervised clinical exercise and manual therapy procedures versus a home exercise program. Physical therapy, 85(12), 1301-1317. Link 

 3) “Assessment: The 4-Stage Balance Test.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and STEADI, 2017.