How to Ease the Pain of Osteoarthritis

Older lady swimming

If you’re suffering with the pain of osteoarthritis, the last thing you may want to hear is that you should exercise. But the days of resting for relief from arthritis are long gone. We now know that moving can help your joints.

By moving your hips and knees and strengthening the muscles around them, you can protect your joints. The question is how much you should exercise and what exercises you can do.

Generally, it’s best to avoid high-impact, weight-bearing exercises in favor of activities that are easy on the joints. That means forgoing running and jogging because they put much more force on your joints. Walking is better. Also not a good idea: jumping rope, high-impact aerobics, and any activity where you have both feet off the ground at once.

Here are the areas you need to concentrate on and some suggestions for joint-friendly exercises:

Cardiovascular Fitness

Get your heart rate up by walking, swimming, or cycling on a recumbent bicycle. The swimming pool is your friend, but make sure it’s heated as cold water is painful for arthritic joints.


Specific exercises, such as leg swings and extensions done without weights, can improve your flexibility and range of motion around your knees and hips. These exercises help joints to lubricate themselves. Better yet, try stretching in a pool.

Muscle Strengthening

You can take some of the load off your joints and relieve pain by strengthening the muscles around the joints, which could also improve your balance and help reduce the incidence of falls.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, osteoarthritis affects nearly 14% of adults age 25 and older, and about a third of adults age 65 and older—in all, an estimated 26.9 million people.

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

Pain, swelling, and joint stiffness are the most common symptoms of this loss of cartilage which causes changes to the underlying bone. CDC statistics indicate osteoarthritis is a leading cause of disability among adults with the condition.

Exercise plays an important role in limiting disability because joints that aren’t exercised tend to have disability associated with them. It can become a vicious circle: You don’t move as well because it hurts, so you don’t exercise, which limits your movement even more.

Remember, before beginning any exercise program, see your doctor. And should you experience any joint pain or swelling upon exercising, treat it with ice and rest.

author name

Charles F. Henderson, MD

Charles F. Henderson, MD, is a rheumatologist with LG Health Physicians Arthritis & Rheumatology. Dr. Henderson’s areas of expertise include autoimmune disease, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Education: Medical School–The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey; Residencies–Wright State University, York Hospital; Fellowship: Johns Hopkins University.

Call: 717-299-1301

About LG Health Hub

The LG Health Hub features breaking medical news and straightforward advice to help individuals of all ages make healthy choices and reach their wellness goals. The blog puts articles by trusted Lancaster General Health clinical experts, good 'n healthy recipes, videos, patient stories, and health risk assessments at your fingertips.


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