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Exercises to Avoid With Knee Arthritis

Done rightly, exercises can decreases arthritis pain. However, if you do the wrong exercises, they can make the knee pain worse and cause complications.

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By Babafemi Adebajo
Joel Taylor
Edited by Joel Taylor

Published November 30, 2021.

The knee joint is a major weight-bearing joint in the body. As such, it is subject to significant stress and pressure that could lead to arthritis of the knee. Certain exercises can effectively reduce the symptoms, but there are some that should be avoided altogether.

Does Exercise Make Arthritic Knees Worse?

Knee arthritis is characterized by pain and swelling, especially with movement. Once diagnosed, it can be easily managed. Exercising with knee osteoarthritis can help decrease arthritis pain. Interestingly, many think that exercises will make knee pain worse, but this is only partly true.

Correctly done, exercising with knee osteoarthritis can decrease arthritis pain while doing the wrong exercise will make the pain much worse. In particular, any type of exercise that puts repetitive motion strain on the knees can speed up cartilage degeneration and spike inflammation.

Thus, instead of avoiding exercises, what you should do is optimize your workout. Sometimes, this means doing the same exercise but in a different position. At other times, it means exercising with orthotics (you may need help to tell if you need orthotics).

Worst Types of Exercise for Knee Pain

Exercises that overload the knee or place repetitive strain on it are the worst types of exercise when you have knee pain. They include:

  • Running/jogging
  • Weightlifting in a standing position
  • Sports that require sudden start and stop movements, like lawn tennis
  • Plyometric exercises

When Should You Avoid Exercise Altogether?

If any kind of movement worsens the pain, you should avoid exercise altogether, at least until there is a decrease in the pain. Also, avoid exercise when there is joint injury from high-impact sports. And if there is knee pain from orthotics, if you use one, stop wearing them immediately and get them evaluated by a podiatrist.