Knee Arthritis (osteoarthritis)

“Running is bad for your knees!” “Lifting weights causes arthritis!” Have you ever heard things like this? I know that I have…

If you’re reading this today, the odds are that you, or someone you know, has either knee pain or knee arthritis. Arthritis can impact every aspect of your life. It can impact you at work, at home, and in what you do for fun.

The real bummer is that it is incredibly common. In fact, according to the CDC, Arthritis is the leading cause of disability for adults in the US, and affects around 24 million Americans! I know a lot of people who suffer from knee arthritis, including people in my family.

Things we often take for granted like, climbing the 3 steps into your home after a long day of work or stepping into your fishing boat for a relaxing day on the water, can seem like monumental tasks.

Eventually, everyday tasks start to be eliminated from your life leading to a more sedentary lifestyle, worsening arthritis, decreased quality of life, and increasing the risk for many more debilitating health conditions. It’s a massive snowball effect!

If that wasn’t bad enough, it’s commonly believed that the only thing that can be done to stop this snowball from rolling further down the hill is to take pills, get injections, or have a knee replacement. Now we are at a place where we have to decide if surgery is the right choice.

A physician can determine whether or not someone is a good candidate, but ultimately you have to decide if that’s the right decision for you.

This can be an overwhelming decision! “Do I have surgery and take the risks that come along with it, or do I keep trying to manage the symptoms and continue down the road I am on?”

So basically… Arthritis is bad. Let’s look at some good news…

In PT school, I had a great professor who was a musculoskeletal wiz. He had a saying he loved to share with us that goes, “Motion is lotion.” Basically, what is meant by this is keeping your joints moving also keeps the fluid in your joints moving, therefore lubricating your joints and decreasing pain.

This brings us back to the first sentence in this blog… “Running is bad for your knees” and “Lifting weights causes arthritis.” These statements, and statements like them, are often accepted as truth, but the fact of the matter is that they are not!

Don’t yell at your computer screen just yet (remember I can’t hear you when you do that anyway). What I mean is that there really isn’t a lot of research to support that these activities cause arthritis.

Yes, a person may have been a runner or lifted weights for years and happen to have arthritis. However, it is important to remember that correlation does not equal causation.

For example, you may know two different people that wore a blue shirt and stubbed their toe. While these two people were both wearing blue shirts and both stubbed their toes, this does not mean that people wearing blue shirts are inherently more likely to stub their toe. Make sense?

In fact, research has done a pretty good job of showing us that exercise/physical activity does NOT increase the prevalence of osteoarthritis later in life provided that injury was avoided (Bosomworth, 2009).

Believe it or not, research has also shown us that people with knee arthritis show an improvement in knee pain with weight training! (Huang et al, 2003) While there is no evidence, that I know of, that says exercise can cure arthritis, at least we know we have another tool in the tool box to treat arthritis and its symptoms other than pills, injections, or surgery.

So where to start? Here are a few simple ideas that can help you get started with dealing with knee arthritis…

1. Go for a walk. If you sit a lot for your job, try to get up from your desk every 20-30 minutes and take a short walk. You don’t have to go out and run every day on your lunch break, but try to at least get up and move around a little throughout your day.

2. Desk Exercises. If you’re stuck at the desk for a long period of time, try slowly straightening your knee in a kicking motion and slowly lower back down. If that is too painful, try just sliding your foot on the ground forward and backward to get your knee moving a little.

You can also do things like sit to stands (stand up, sit down) if it’s not too painful. Just try to get your knee moving when you can in a way that does not increase your pain too much.

3. Supportive shoes. If you stand or move around a lot during your day, get some supportive shoes. Poor foot support can cause greater stress up, what is called, the kinetic chain (remember the song… “The foot bone’s connected to the leg bone…”?).

If you are someone that walks on the outside of your foot or you have flat feet, this can increase stress on your knees, hips, and even back. Find a good supportive shoe and this can help support the the joints up the kinetic chain.

If possible, I recommend staying away from flats or high heels as these can cause greater stress on your knees.

4. Physical Therapy! These simple tips can get your started. If you still have some questions, concerns, or you need some more guidance, get in touch with a physical therapist!

You can always reach out to Idaho Direct Physical Therapy to help with your knee arthritis by calling/texting 208-557-1470, send an email to, or book a Discovery Visit for a free consultation. However we can help, let us know!


Disclaimer: This content is for general, informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice.


Bosomworth NJ. Exercise and knee osteoarthritis: benefit or hazard? CanadianFamily physician. 2009; 55 (g);871-878.

CDC Disability and Health Page. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site. Available at: Accessed November 19, 2020.

Hootman JM, Macera CA, Helmick CG, Blair ST. Influence of physical activity-related joint stress on the risk of self reported hip/knee osteoarthritis: a new method to quantify physical activity. Preventative Medicine. 2003: 636-644

Huang MH, Lin YSL, Yang RC, Lee CL. A comparison of various therapeutic exercises on the functional status of patients with knee osteoarthritis. Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism. 2003; 32: 398-406.


Dr. Tyler Burke

DPT, Owner and Founder of Switchback Direct PT

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