Learn more about arthritis

Arthritis can be complicated and overwhelming. Learn more about arthritis including the best exercises, diets, and adventures. We are here to not only make it easy for you to understand but to bring hope to your situation with the tips and tricks we present.

exercises for spinal stenosis

Exercises for spinal stenosis: 3 BEST Ways to Find Relief without Surgery in 2023

Spinal stenosis can make daily activities difficult due to pain, weakness, and/or stiffness. As it turns out, exercises for spinal stenosis are most effective when they include flexion (bending forward). This is a pain relieving position for the condition. You can accomplish safe spinal flexion with bodyweight support bands and a kitchen counter if you are just starting. Various research studies have examined the effectiveness of exercise on lumbar spinal stenosis and have concluded that core stability exercises are the most beneficial for pain relief, equally as effective as surgery! So which would you rather try? Let’s learn more.

I always find that my patients are much more successful with sticking to an exercise program when they know WHY they are actually doing them. Need the reasons why you should exercise with arthritis? For example, would you eat peas if you didn’t know they were good for you? Yuck, I know I wouldn’t! So why would you exercise if you didn’t know why it was helping?

Let’s learn a little more about spinal stenosis first.

Why should I being doing exercises for spinal stenosis?

Your spine is made up of smaller bones called vertebrae along with a bunch of nerves that run along your entire spine in a canal. If this canal begins to narrow, it can impact the nerves that run through this canal and can lead to nerve pain, stiffness, and pain in certain positions.

Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal. It is most commonly seen in the back but can also exist in the neck too.

Spinal stenosis can have a wide range of symptom severity depending on how impacted the nerves are.

If you have spinal stenosis you may notice symptoms that include:

  • numbness, tingling, burning, shooting pain in buttocks, legs, and/or feet (if it’s in your back); you may also notice numbness and/or tingling in the arms if you have stenosis in your neck
  • cramping and/or weakness in the legs (+ arms if stenosis is in your neck)
  • impaired bowel or bladder function
  • worsening symptoms with walking and symptom relief when sitting

Spinal stenosis can impact the way you move and can make walking, especially longer distances, much more difficult.

Just because you have spinal stenosis does not mean you need surgery. Your body is incredibly good at adapting and finding new ways to move. One of the most important ways to help find relief from spinal stenosis and get better at activities like walking is actually exercise. Unfortunately, exercise is usually one of the first things people give up with this diagnosis.

I’ve worked with people who have experienced moderate to severe symptoms that were able to find relief with simple movement and postural corrections. Pain can be exacerbated by poor posture, inactivity, poor sleep and muscle imbalances.

Exercises for spinal stenosis can help to improve posture, reduce the strain on your spine, improve stamina, and build up the muscles your body is relying on more heavily (such as the hips) because of this condition. Learn more below!

It is important to keep in mind that, depending on the severity of spinal stenosis, surgery may still be necessary. This is particularly the case if the pain impacts your quality of life and limits your ability to complete necessary tasks. It is a big decision.

Causes of spinal stenosis

Spinal stenosis is typically caused by excessive extension. This means you have a more pronounced curve in your lower back or neck. This could be for an anatomical reason or related to postures you have spent a lot of time in. An increased curve can cause irritation to the nerves.

Here are some examples of how this can happen:

  • osteoarthritis of the spine or degenerative disc disease as it leads to changes in how you spine moves which can lead to muscle imbalances
  • excessive weight distribution in abdominal region
  • genetics
  • chronic disc herniation or bulge

This is why standing can be a very painful position if you have spinal stenosis. When most people stand, there is a slight arch in the lower back. This arch position usually is an aggravating posture with this condition. Sitting typically feels better because when you sit down, this arch disappears and the back becomes a little more rounded.

Why does exercise help?

There is good news though! Much like osteoarthritis, movement and exercise can be incredibly powerful to not only help you find relief but to unlock adventure again.

Exercises for spinal stenosis have been shown to be equally as effective as surgery. If you were to opt to get surgery, your outcomes (pain, function afterwards) are likely very similar to if you had gone to physical therapy or started an exercise program. Take a look at this research:

“Exercises can increase the activation of [muscles around your spine], improve stability and coordination of [your spine], improve lumbar lordosis angle and adjust the lumbar alignment and subsequently it can result in the relief of nerve compression, and the symptoms including pain and disability are improved in patients with [spinal stenosis]”

Mo et al. 2018

“But if the results are the same, should I just get surgery?” Don’t be so quick.

Exercise doesn’t work for everyone but the fact that outcomes can actually similar is an incredible finding. Think about it this way. Surgery comes with inherent risks, especially when dealing with your spine. Surgery also can entail long recovery times and even higher pain levels while recovering.

The great thing about exercise is the fact that it has very little, if any, side effects and can help you build up muscle support and improve your posture. This is why exercises for spinal stenosis can be very attractive when beginning your path to pain relief.

The same study mentioned above made an interesting point when comparing surgery to exercise:

“Compared with exercise therapy, lumbar decompressive laminectomies can relieve pain immediately, but it can’t strengthen the power of the muscles and flexibility of the joints. In addition, surgical procedures may damage the paravertebral muscles, decrease muscle power and adversely effect lumbar alignment”

Mo et al. 2018

Your muscles are extremely important to support your spine. You have to give them the attention they need. One of the best ways to do this is through specific exercises that promote optimal positioning of your spine and the right amount of stability to decrease the nerve compression.

What are the best exercises for spinal stenosis?

Take a look at these tips first and these exercises will make much more sense. Remember, these exercises for spinal stenosis will depend on how severe your condition is.

If one of these exercises doesn’t work for you, its okay. There are thousands of exercises out there you can try. We just put all the best ones in one place!

From these tips, you now know a couple of ways you can give our body the support it needs when beginning to exercise with spinal stenosis:

  • using a kitchen counter or other stable support surface
  • using bodyweight support suspension bands, or TRX bands (these are my favorite)

Now, here are 3 exercises you should start with to teach your body how to move again.

Make sure to start with the right amount of support then work on moving away from the support once you feel comfortable and confident.

One of my patients just went through this exact sequence and had been dealing with pain from spinal stenosis for the past 5 years. He was able to find RELIEF through strength, balance, and frequent movement. He feels as though he is moving better than he did 20 years ago.

Exercise 1: Supported squat

Grab a kitchen counter, or these exercise straps for the best results. When you squat, one common instinct is to bend the knees first, which means that is the joint that is going to be taking most of the load. Instead, you should be squatting bending at the hips first then bending at the knees because your hips are much more prepared.

How does this apply to spinal stenosis? Hip strength and mobility are incredibly important to support your spine and reduce pain.

With exercises for spinal stenosis, you want to be conscious about avoiding excessive arching of your back and this support can help with that!

Complete 8-12 reps to get started, going down as low as is comfortable. Maintaining good form is extremely important.

Here is a post of more squat modifications as well.

For the squat, you can also use suspension straps like this as a way to provide more support.

Exercise 2: Supported forward plank

I couldn’t talk about exercises for spinal stenosis without mentioning core exercises. Your core muscles can help support your spine and can be a key contributor to both pain relief and optimizing your posture.

In order to promote good posture and to build up your core muscles, the plank can be a great exercise to start with.

You can start on a supported surface like the video below and progress to a lower surface to make more difficult. When first getting started, depending on your spinal stenosis symptoms, the higher the supportive object, the easier this will be.

You have to focus on keeping your hips up and trying not to let your chest sag. Push through your shoulders. Form is KEY to getting the most out of this exercise.

Try to hold for 20-30 seconds to start with a goal of maintaining good form and holding for up to 60 seconds. Once you master 60 seconds, move to a lower surface.

Exercise 3: Forward and backwards walking

It is actually quite amazing the power backwards walking can have on both strength and pain levels. Commonly with spinal stenosis, forward walking may feel better but you might be surprised on how good backwards walking can feel too.

Backwards walking essentially works the muscles opposite of forwards walking, primarily the backs of your legs and glutes. These muscles are extremely important to help support your spine and to build strong legs.

When doing this exercise, avoid leaning backwards while moving. Make sure you are tucking your hips underneath you and using your glute muscles!

Once you master the movement, you can add a resistance band to make this exercise harder. Walking backwards is one of the best exercises for spinal stenosis as you naturally lean forward while doing it and challenge your muscles and balance in a new way.

Try to complete 5-6 steps each direction, the longer you go in one direction, the more fatigued your muscles will get, hence making the exercise more difficult. Try to complete this exercise for 30 seconds to begin then increase the time as you are able.

Exercise is powerful

These three exercises are a great start to building support for your spine and controlling your spinal curve like we talked about in the beginning.

There is hope if you have spinal stenosis. Hope for pain relief without having to go through surgery. These are just the start. You have to continue to progress, continue to build up your muscle support.

Exercises for spinal stenosis can be so powerful in preventing the condition from getting worse and/or progressing. It may initially be a little difficult to find them BUT I wanted to help fast forward this process by showing you some great exercises to start with.

These exercises for spinal stenosis have been tried and tested by multiple clients and they have been successful! Your success and adventure is waiting for you too.

If you are looking for more exercise options, here are the best 11 exercises you can try if you have degenerative disc disease. If you want to truly unlock pain relief, finding the right exercises that your body loves is crucial. There are so many options out there, no sense in spending time doing things your body doesn’t like!

In order to get the most benefit, you have to believe pain relief is possible. You deserve this! Going into trying these exercises with the mindset “this won’t work” or “there’s nothing I can do for my pain” is not the way to approach it. Keeping an open mind is VITAL. You are holding yourself back with these types of thoughts.

Exercise is not the only piece, as diet and lifestyle choices also play a huge role. If we can start with one of them though, pain relief is that much closer. Remember, you can do this. You have to start small, don’t try to do everything at once.

If you are looking for more ways to learn how to adventure again with chronic back pain, spinal stenosis and/or degenerative disc disease– head on over to the free webinar that details the “3 Secrets to Adventuring with Osteoarthritis”!


Dr. Alyssa Kuhn is a physical therapist and arthritis specialist with Keep the Adventure Alive. She has helped arthritis sufferers all over the country finally break free from their pain without surgery or more pills. She has lots of adventures she loves like hiking, biking, and skiing. She wants you to have adventures too! There is such a lack of positive and optimistic information out there about arthritis and Dr. Alyssa is on a mission to change that once and for all.

Join our FREE Facebook community for more motivation along with tips and tricks on how to find pain relief!

Reference: Mo Z, Zhang R, Chang M, Tang S. Exercise therapy versus surgery for lumbar spinal stenosis: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Pak J Med Sci. 2018 Jul-Aug;34(4):879-885. doi: 10.12669/pjms.344.14349. PMID: 30190746; PMCID: PMC6115590.

Disclaimer: This post is for general informational purposes only. It should not be used to self-diagnose and it is not a substitute for a medical exam, cure, treatment, diagnosis, and prescription or recommendation. It does not create a doctor-patient relationship between Dr. Kuhn and you. You should not make any change in your health regimen or diet before first consulting a physician and obtaining a medical exam, diagnosis, and recommendation. Move Well Age Well, LLC and Dr. Alyssa Kuhn, PT, DPT are not liable or responsible for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis or any conclusions drawn, services or product you obtain through this post, video or site. Complete all exercises for spinal stenosis at your own risk.

inside knee pain, medial knee pain

Inside Knee Pain Explained: What it means and 3 things you should do

Inside knee pain, also known as medial knee pain, can lead to difficulty doing common activities like walking and climbing stairs. With so many different things that could cause this pain, it is understandable that many become frustrated. This can often lead to being unmotivated, decreasing activities, and not being able to adventure as life requires. I am here to tell you it doesn’t have to be that way! Here you will find out what may be the root of your pain and find out how you can achieve pain relief!

Knee pain is incredibly common and could mean many different things. Knee pain isn’t always severe and I want you to know that there are options when it comes to finding relief.

“Knee pain affects approximately 25% of adults. The prevalence of knee pain has increased almost 65% over the past 20 years, accounting for nearly 4 million primary care visits annually” (Bunt et al 2018).

One of the more common places for knee pain is actually on the inside of your knee, also known as medial knee pain. Some of the primary causes include osteoarthritis, acute injury to ligaments, and/or meniscus involvement. 

In this article we will go into depth on the causes of medial knee pain and what you can do to find relief and avoid serious procedures. 

Common causes of inside knee pain

If you are experiencing pain on the inside of your knee, it may not be serious. It is important to know what typically causes it in order to begin to match your symptoms to a potential reason. 

Acute injuries

Did you recently experience a fall or an incident when you injured your knee? For example a recent sports injury or stepping wrong out of the car that resulted in a twisting feeling? 

If you have experienced a recent injury and now are experiencing medial knee pain- here are a few potential causes.

Acute injuries tend to happen suddenly and cause pain, swelling, bruising, weakness, etc.

  • Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) sprains/tears/irritation: this ligament runs along the inside of the knee and is commonly injured from a force coming from outside the knee, forcing your knee inwards. If you have feelings of instability, locking/catching in the knee, swelling, pain with walking or bending your knee- this could be a potential cause.
  • Medial Meniscus Tear: Your meniscus is a structure sandwiched in between the bones that make up your knee. It helps to absorb shock when walking, running, etc so all of the stress isn’t going right to the joint. The medial meniscus gets injured most often from quick, twisting motions such as pivoting in tennis, basketball, etc. If you have popping, clicking, difficulty putting all of your weight on that leg, and reduced pain when sitting- this could be a potential cause

What do I do after an acute injury?

If you have recently had an injury or suspect you may have one of the conditions described above, the first course of action is to see your primary care physician or a physician that you regularly see. You will likely be sent to imaging to rule out any other potential complications such as a break in the bone(s).

Once fractures and other more serious complications are ruled out, the best course of action is to avoid overstressing the injured area. This does not always mean complete rest

Keep reading for some tips on how to proceed. 

Overuse injuries

Overuse injuries typically happen after sudden increases in activity, or after frequent, repetitive motions without adequate strength and flexibility. Essentially, this happens when you ask your joints to do a ton of activity that they weren’t prepared for. 

A common occurence I see as a physical therapist is dramatically increasing walking distance. For example, if you regularly walk 2-3 blocks each day then suddenly  walking 3 miles with a friend can lead to an overuse injury.

These injuries don’t always have an exact mechanism of injury and it may be difficult to recall exactly when the pain started. They tend to worsen over a time period of months to years.

Here are some common overuse injuries that can contribute to medial knee pain:

  • Bursitis:  A bursa is a fluid-filled pad that reduces friction between bones and muscles and other structures. A bursa can become irritated because of too much friction, repetitive motion, and/or muscle imbalances leading to movement compensations. The inside knee may be tender to touch and/or swollen.
  • Plica Syndrome: plica are folds in the  lining that surrounds the knee joint. These folds may become irritated and inflamed with overuse. They can become thickened, tight, and lose elasticity. This can lead to inside knee pain, tenderness to touch, and/or popping and clicking with certain movements like a squat.
  • MCL Sprain/Tear: Mentioned in the acute injuries above, MCL injuries can also occur from repetitive movements that place too much stress on the ligament. Symptoms include inside knee pain, swelling, stiffness, and/or tenderness. 

What do I do after an overuse injury?

First, it’s important to look back and think about if you have recently increased any sort of activity. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Did I recently do an activity or movement that was new or that I wasn’t used to? (for example, going hiking for the first time in a while, climbing stairs, trying a new sport like pickleball, etc)
  • Did I recently do significantly more activity than usual? (for example, walking or running a longer distance, riding a bike 2-3x the distance you usually do, etc) 
If the answer is yes and you are able to think of a few different causes, this is a great place to start. Reducing the volume of those activities can be the first step, if it’s feasible. 
The next step is to figure out how to better prepare your joints for the repetition and the activity as muscle imbalances are likely present. Keep reading for some tips to get started with.

Other causes

One of the most common causes of inside knee pain outside of the above categories is: 

  • Osteoarthritis: Your knee is made up of three compartments (inside of the knee, outside of the knee and the kneecap), each which can be affected by arthritis. The inside of the knee is one of the most common compartments to be affected. Common symptoms can include inside knee pain, stiffness especially in the morning, loss of range of motion in the knee, and/or joint swelling. Take a look at other common symptoms here.

Osteoarthritis usually comes on gradually although sometimes it may feel like it came on suddenly. There is more to osteoarthritis than just simply overuse (i.e running too much when you were younger), so I believe it deserves it’s own category. 

This is the condition I work most closely with. Find out more details about knee osteoarthritis here.

Some other, less common, diagnoses that may be the cause of your inner knee pain are: fractures, nerve entrapment, impingement syndromes, tendinopathies, and referred pain from the back or sciatica.


When dealing with inside knee pain, certain strategies can help to reduce pain and also reduce the risk of re-injury. There are some occasions where complete rest is indicated but it may not be as necessary as you think…

Most of the time, some degree of movement can help to facilitate healing. 

Here are three things you can do to reduce inside knee pain:  

1. Movement

Research has shown time and time again that movement plays a key role in reducing and preventing injury as well as keeping joints such as your knee healthy. 

“Evidence has shown that active management (e.g., stretching, strengthening, exercise programs) is more effective in decreasing knee pain and improving  function than passive modalities (e.g., therapeutic ultrasonography, electrical stimulation, taping, cryotherapy, heat)” Jones et. al, 2015

Strengthening both the fronts and the backs of your legs are vital to supporting the knee joint and healing inside knee pain. There are many ways to modify certain movements, especially if you are currently in pain. 

The muscles that surround your knee are incredibly important. Oftentimes, even just a few days of complete rest can result in muscle weakness. This is why it’s so important to keep moving. 

Depending on your injury and/or pain levels- the movement your body is ready for may look different. When healing, it’s important to avoid stressing the area of injury too much. 

Gentle movement is very important as it helps to promote blood flow and bring in helpful cells to the joint. Movements that are too strenuous could increase irritation and sensitivity. 

Here is an example of a gentle, seated movement routine that can get the whole body moving that can be helpful in reducing knee pain: 

2. Prioritizing sleep

Believe it or not, sleep plays a vital role when it comes to healing your body. Whether you are dealing with chronic pain (pain lasting more than 3 months) or an injury that just happened, adequate sleep is necessary. 

Poor quality of sleep can actually increase the sensitivity of pain. If you don’t get enough sleep, situations that normally wouldn’t irritate you- might elicit a negative reaction. Likewise, you may find yourself getting much earlier or at a higher magnitude, compared to a day when you have gotten good sleep. 

Your body, more specifically, your knee can respond in this same way. Certain activities that normally wouldn’t hurt, may hurt on days where sleep is lacking.  You may also experience higher pain levels than usual. 

But if you’re in pain, sleep can be an issue. Sometimes inside knee pain can wake you up at night. 

One trick that can be very helpful is sleeping with a pillow between your knees, as long as your inner knee isn’t painful to touch. You may also want to try heating or icing before bed. 

Here is another article about other tips you can use to improve your sleep. 

3. External supports

When you’re in pain, especially inside knee pain, your knee is searching for support. One simple thing that can actually help with pain sensation is compression. 

A neoprene knee sleeve can be very helpful to reduce pain sensations as the feeling of pain and compression are felt on similar receptors in your body. So if compression is present, you may not experience as much pain. 

I have a list of my favorite neoprene knee sleeves here. They are inexpensive and can help to minimize swelling while helping to reduce irritation. 

You may also be given a brace with hard parts in it, depending on your injury. If prescribed by your physician, it can be helpful to offload some bodyweight from the inside of the knee. 

If not prescribed one of these braces, I would highly recommend trying a neoprene knee sleeve first. The braces with the hard pieces in them can be very large, cumbersome, hard to move in, and can facilitate movement compensations as they change the way you move. 

If you don’t have a knee sleeve, you can also use an ACE wrap to  wrap your knee. It is more difficult to regulate the compression so make sure you are not putting it on too tight. If it’s too loose, it may not be providing enough compression to bring the benefits. 


If you are experiencing inside knee pain, there are many different causes. Whether it’s a new pain from a recent injury or it’s a pain you have been dealing with for a while- there is something you can do about it! 

Please note that conservative measures (movement, sleep, braces) may not work for everyone. If you continue to experience significant levels of pain- surgery may be an option. 

There are options for meniscus surgery (outcomes may not always be the best, read this article for more), joint replacement for knee osteoarthritis (read more on that here), and other reconstruction surgeries primarily for the other ligaments in the knee. 


Bunt, Christopher W et al. “Knee Pain in Adults and Adolescents: The Initial Evaluation.” American family physician vol. 98,9 (2018): 576-585.

Written in collaboration with Kayci Smith, student physical therapist

Dr Alyssa Kuhn, osteoarthritis

Author: Alyssa Kuhn

Dr. Alyssa Kuhn is a physical therapist and an osteoarthritis specialist. She is based in Sandy, Utah and loves playing in the mountains. She founded Keep the Adventure Alive to break through the doom and gloom of osteoarthritis and bring a motivating perspective with the possibility of adventure. She helps people all across the world find pain relief, regain confidence and lead very active lives. She has helped hundreds of people find their own arthritis adventures and now, it’s your turn!

Disclaimer: This post is for general informational purposes only. It should not be used to self-diagnose and it is not a substitute for a medical exam, cure, treatment, diagnosis, and prescription or recommendation. It does not create a doctor-patient relationship between Dr. Kuhn and you. You should not make any change in your health regimen or diet before first consulting a physician and obtaining a medical exam, diagnosis, and recommendation. Move Well Age Well, LLC and Dr. Alyssa Kuhn, PT, DPT are not liable or responsible for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis or any conclusions drawn, services or product you obtain through this post, video or site. Complete all exercises at your own risk.

what not to do after knee replacement

What not to do after knee replacement: Top 7 mistakes to avoid

When looking at what not to do after knee replacement, there are a few common mistakes I see as a physical therapist. I spent a couple of years as a home care physical therapist seeing people after hip and knee replacements. Mistakes such as too much sitting, putting a pillow underneath the knees, and not fueling your body to promote healing are a few things to avoid that can help improve your healing.

A knee replacement surgery is a big decision. Before making the decision it is incredibly important to weigh the pros and cons as well as how osteoarthritis is impacting your quality of life. 

I have a post here dedicated to helping you make a confident and informed decision for yourself.

I've had a knee replacement, now what?

Post-operative rehabilitation and care of your new knee is incredibly important. 

As a physical therapist, I spent a few years helping people heal after total knee and hip replacements, working in home health. I was able to learn a ton about the recovery process as well as find out what the common mistakes were along the way. 

Some people do really well with joint surgery and others have a more difficult time. 

This is why this article on what not to do after knee replacement is so important. Your actions after surgery can truly impact how your new joint heals. 

Please note there can be adverse reactions to a knee replacement and this doesn’t mean you have done something wrong. With this surgery there is always risk for infection, allergy to implant, and other things that can happen that are out of your control.

What I want to show you today are things that are largely in your control to decrease your risk of other adverse reactions.

The reality is….if recovery is not followed appropriately- this scary fact keeps coming up: 

"One yearafter TKA [total knee arthroplasty], patients report having greater difficulty with kneeling, squatting, moving laterally, turning, cutting,carrying loads, stretching, performing lower extremity strengthening exercises, playing tennis, dancing, gardening, and participating in sexual activity, when compared to healthy adults"

Bade et al 2010

But there is hope to return to these activities and actually enjoy them! Keep reading to find out how.

What not to do after knee replacement: 7 common mistakes

Taking care of your new knee is crucial in order to get the outcomes you are likely searching for: reduced pain and improved mobility.

A knee replacement does not automatically result in pain relief so it is important to follow these guidelines along with the protocol of your surgeon for optimal healing.

This quote below is to help bring about the importance of post-operative care and dedication to this process.

Up to 30% of patients report dissatisfaction with the outcomes of their TKA [total knee arthroplasty] despite the absence of radiological or observable physical complications, such as infection or problems with prostheses. Patient dissatisfaction with TKA is higher when self-reported pain and functional outcomes do not improve or recovery outcomes do not align with preoperative expectations

Ditton et al 2020

Dedication to recovery can help you get the most out of your knee and start adventuring again! 

1. Don't forget to move your knee

Especially early on in the recovery process, sitting too much in one position with your legs hanging down can lead to ankle and foot swelling. When this happens, walking can become difficult. 

After a total knee replacement, stiffness can come on rather quickly so it’s important to stay ahead of it. 

Simple movements in a seated position or in a laying down position may be helpful earlier in recovery. Progressing to spending more time in standing is important as your joint continues to heal. 

Movement will help to improve blood flow, reduce stiffness and heaviness of leg, and continue to improve range of motion. 

This exercise below is an example of a movement you can do in a seated position to help work your knee out. 

When looking at what not to do after knee replacement, lack of movement is something you cannot afford to do if you want optimal results out of your new knee.

The goal is to move every 10-15 minutes if possible to prevent fluid from collecting in your joint. 

As you progress into your recovery, stiffness may start to become less prevalent but frequent movement will be just as important.  

2. Don't rest with a pillow directly under your knees

One of the most important aspects of recovery from a total knee replacement is restoring range of motion. Without appropriate knee bending and straightening, you may find activities like walking, stairs, and even standing are difficult to accomplish. 

Placing a pillow underneath your knee can negatively impact your knee straightening ability. This is why it made the list of what not to do after knee replacement. 

Resting for a while with your knee in a slightly bent position can make straightening your leg very difficult as your knee becomes stiff. 

The best way is to support your entire leg with a pillow (such as a body pillow), not just underneath your knee. This will cause your leg to stay in a straightened position. See picture below.

what not to do after knee replacement

3. Don't overdo it

Trying to do too much right away can leave you with high levels of pain and swelling. 

As you move through the healing process, it is advised to increase your daily activity gradually- even if it feels good. 

Split up daily tasks if you need to and make sure to take rest breaks in between, especially in the first 8-10 weeks. As you begin to feel more comfortable, you can start to do more including going out of the house for errands. 

Keep in mind, everyone is going to heal a little differently so there isn’t a specific time point when you will be cleared for tasks like driving. It is based on how your knee is moving and your ability to react quickly if needed.

When I was working as a physical therapist in home care, this was one of the most common mistakes I saw people make. Doing too much right away can lead you down a pain hole that can be pretty difficult to climb out of.

4. Don't stop when pt stops

So often patients are discharged from traditional physical therapy (PT) once their pain is controlled and they can meet basic functional goals. 

Rarely do people get to continue until they are able to do adventurous things like hiking, kneeling, higher impact exercise, squatting, etc. There are people who are years out from their replacement but don’t have the ability to squat and kneel like they want to. 

Yes, I said kneeling. It can be possible even after a total joint replacement.

"There is currently no evidence that there is any clinical reason why patients should not kneel on their replaced knee, and reasons for not kneeling could be addressed through education and rehabilitation"

Wylde et al 2019

One of the mistakes I see is that people tend to stop putting a priority on exercise once they have graduated from physical therapy. Exercise does continue to remain incredibly important especially if you have goals for adventure, for travel, or to return to activities you love

The idea though is unfortunately not just continuing to follow the piece of paper you were given for the next 3 years. Instead, progressing exercise is extremely important. 

Once out of PT though, many people feel lost with exercise. They may feel unsure what is safe and what should be avoided. Fear of re-injury can also play a part. 

That is why I created the Arthritis Adventure Blueprint. It walks you through step by step on how to regain your strength back starting with seated workouts and moving on up to using weights and even some higher impact activity once your body is ready. 

There are current members of the Blueprint who have gone through a knee replacement and are dedicated to getting the most out of their surgery so they can get back to a leading an active life- no matter if they are one year out or 5+ years out from surgery. 

5. Don't forget food plays a part

Food plays a vital part of recovery both right after surgery and with continued recovery down the road. What’s interesting is food is almost never discussed as a part of our traditional medical model. 

Were you told that protein is incredibly important when it comes to aiding in wound healing? 

Were you told that certain foods can increase inflammation and irritation inside of your joint- contributing to increased pain? 

With osteoarthritis, it is so important to look at what you are eating and make sure you are fueling your body with the right foods. Prioritizing fruits, vegetables, quality protein sources, and other whole foods is incredibly important. 

Most people are actually unaware that food does play a role in arthritis pain. Certain people may be more sensitive to food groups such as processed sugar and/or gluten but not everyone will be impacted in the same fashion. 

That is why the Arthritis Adventure Blueprint not only contains workouts, it also contains information on what foods to eat, how to prioritize protein and what to look for when grocery shopping to ensure you’re fueling your body in the right way. 

6. Don't try to tough out the pain

When looking at what not to do after knee replacement- it is extremely important to discuss appropriate pain management. 

Oftentimes I found people would try to wean off of pain relieving strategies too quickly. Pain can be intense, especially in the first few weeks so it is important to make sure you get a handle on the pain as much as you can. 

Strategies such as: prescribed pain medications, frequent and gentle movement, icing, and the right amount of activity can help to keep pain at bay. 

If pain levels get too high, motivation and willingness to move decreases and therefore brings on more stiffness. High levels of pain can also disrupt sleep which can actually make you more sensitive to pain- a vicious cycle you don’t want to be in. 

As healing continues, you may continue to experience varying levels of pain which is why building appropriate muscle support and balance is extremely important. It is truly incredible how powerful movement and muscle strength can be for arthritic joints, even if they have been replaced.

7. Don't give up hope on your adventures

Just because you have had a joint replacement does not mean you have to set a low bar on what you can accomplish in the future. 

You can relearn how to squat.

You can relearn how to get on the ground. 

You can relearn how to go up and down stairs.

You can get back to traveling and walking longer distances. 

These things are all possible with the right steps forward. 

Making sure you have built adequate strength, maintain good range of motion and continue to improve your stamina- the world can be yours! 

Don’t sell yourself short. 

If you want to make adventure possible for yourself and feel your best after this surgery- the Arthritis Adventure Blueprint is waiting for you.


It is totally possible to have a successful knee replacement and be able to enjoy life.

Recognize there are factors that are outside of your control but also that there certainly are factors that can increase your chance of success. 

My ultimate goal is to help you get set up on the right path forward so you can make all of your adventures possible. 

When looking at this list of what not to do after a knee replacement, don’t be overwhelmed. Keep in mind everyone’s progress may look different. 

As long as you continue to try your very best to help your knee regain it’s function- these tips can help continue to guide you along this adventure. 

Happy healing and see you inside the Arthritis Adventure Blueprint! 

arthritis adventure blueprint

The Arthritis Adventure Blueprint

Dr. Alyssa Kuhn’s signature program to help you go from hopeless to hopeful with osteoarthritis. You will learn the secrets to arthritis pain relief that actually work- including exercise, diet, and other ways to control inflammation! Say goodbye to short term pain relief, it’s time to make it last.


Bade MJ, Kohrt WM, Stevens-Lapsley JE. Outcomes before and after total knee arthroplasty compared to healthy adults. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2010;40(9):559-567. doi:10.2519/jospt.2010.3317

Ditton E, Johnson S, Hodyl N, Flynn T, Pollack M, Ribbons K, Walker FR, Nilsson M. Improving Patient Outcomes Following Total Knee Arthroplasty: Identifying Rehabilitation Pathways Based on Modifiable Psychological Risk and Resilience Factors. Front Psychol. 2020 May 29;11:1061. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01061. PMID: 32670136; PMCID: PMC7326061.

Wylde V, Artz N, Howells N, Blom AW. Kneeling ability after total knee replacement. EFORT Open Rev. 2019;4(7):460-467. Published 2019 Jul 7. doi:10.1302/2058-5241.4.180085

Disclaimer: This post is for general informational purposes only. It should not be used to self-diagnose and it is not a substitute for a medical exam, cure, treatment, diagnosis, and prescription or recommendation. It does not create a doctor-patient relationship between Dr. Kuhn and you. You should not make any change in your health regimen or diet before first consulting a physician and obtaining a medical exam, diagnosis, and recommendation. Move Well Age Well, LLC and Dr. Alyssa Kuhn, PT, DPT are not liable or responsible for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis or any conclusions drawn, services or product you obtain through this post, video or site. Complete all exercises at your own risk.

lateral hip pain, hip osteoarthritis

Lateral hip pain- is it arthritis? What you need to know + 3 ways to find relief!

Lateral hip pain is common, especially in women over 40 due to anatomical changes when compared to men as well as potential muscle imbalances that may be present. Does lateral hip pain mean you have hip arthritis? The short answer is no. But making sure your hips are strong and healthy can help to fend off osteoarthritis. In this article you’ll learn about the symptoms of lateral hip pain, what it might be, and how to find relief.

This article may contain affiliate links that provide us with a small compensation without any extra cost to you if products are purchased through these links.

Is lateral hip pain a sign of arthritis?

In short the answer is no, pain on the outside of your hip does not automatically mean you have hip arthritis. It is possible though that they exist together. 

Here are are list of symptoms of each condition to help you get a better picture of what you may be dealing with.

Common symptoms of hip osteoarthritis

  • stiffness in the morning typically relieved after 30 minutes of movement
  • groin pain 
  • pain with walking 
  • stiffness after being in one position for >15-20 minutes
  • loss of range of motion
  • pain when standing on one leg

(find out more about what osteoarthritis typically feels like in this post)

Common symptoms of lateral hip pain:

  • pain when lying directly on it
  • pain with walking and with stairs
  • pain crossing your legs in sitting or standing
  • potential presence of lower back pain
  • pain when standing on one leg

Now we’ve differentiated these conditions a bit, if you have been experiencing at least one or all of the symptoms of lateral hip pain, keep reading! 

If you find yourself in the category of hip osteoarthritis, you can find more helpful info here.

Please note this is not an exclusive list of symptoms and other symptoms may be present. If you are experiencing numbness/tingling, deep dull ache especially at night, unrelenting symptoms no matter your position or systemic symptoms like fever, fatigue, etc- please go to a medical professional for a full exam. 

What causes lateral hip pain?

There can be many different causes of lateral hip pain. The most common type of pain is caused by what is a called “gluteal tendinopathy”. 

This condition used to be labeled as “trochanteric bursitis” but according to the research “While this condition has traditionally been referred to as trochanteric bursitis, gluteus medius and/or minimus tendinopathy is now accepted as the most prevalent pathology in those with pain and tenderness over the greater trochanter [your outermost hip bone]” (Grimaldi an Fearon 2015). 

What this really means is that one of your 3 layers of gluteal muscles are angry where they attach at the hip.

See in the picture below the outermost layer known as the gluteus maximus. Underneath that large muscle are two other smaller layers. Each layer is responsible for a different movement of the leg.

lateral hip pain image

This could be caused by: 

  • muscle weakness 
  • hip angle (most common in women)
  • overuse
  • recent sharp increase in activity

If you think about your recent activity- the recent sharp increase in activity seems to be one of the primary aggravators. 

Did you recently walk/hike/run significantly more than normal? 

Did you climb more stairs than you usually do, say on vacation or maybe even doing housework, cleaning or running errands?

If you answered yes, this type of tendinopathy may be the culprit. 

So now what?

What are the best treatment options for someone experiencing gluteal tendinopathy and lateral hip pain? 

In a systematic review completed in 2021 for the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine, different treatment options were explored. Exercise has been found to have an effect on pain levels in the earlier stages of this condition.

"Mellor et al investigated the effect of an exercise program (initial educating session, followed by 14 individual sessions over 8 weeks with a registered physical therapist) on hip pain intensity and patient satisfaction measured using the global rating of change scale. Greater total improvement and lower pain intensity were found 8 weeks after initial treatment for gluteal tendinopathy compared with a single CSI [corticosteroid injection] at baseline or a wait-and-see approach"

Ladurner et al, 2021

In a clinical commentary in the Journal of Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy, Grimaldi and Fearon discuss the primary, conservative treatments to include: 

  • avoiding movements and positions that place the greatest stress on the painful area of the hip
  • beginning with light isometrics (a special type of exercise shown to help with tendon pain relief)
  • progressing to resistance movements to load the tendon appropriately

Let’s break this down further.

Movements to avoid

With higher levels of lateral hip pain, some movements to avoid include positions that strain the glute muscle(s). 

One of the most aggravating positions that has been found is called hip adduction which is illustrated in each of the pictures below. 

Hip adduction occurs when the leg is moved towards the opposite side of the body.

In the second photo from the left, you’ll see a graphic depiction of the hip joint.

As you can see, leaning on your hip causes adduction of the hip you’re leaning towards. 

These positions can actually aggravate the tendon and increase lateral hip pain. This is because there is a point on your hip called the greater trochanter that the irritated muscle comes in contact with. 

Without lateral hip pain, adduction shouldn’t pose an issue. But if the gluteal tendon(s) is/are irritated rubbing over that may not feel great.

This is also where trochanteric bursitis got its name as it was once proposed that the bursa (a fluid filled sac) got irritated. It has been proposed that bursitis isn’t as common as once thought. “[A] recent imaging study 60 of 877 individuals with greater trochanteric pain demonstrated a similar low incidence of bursal change, with only 20% exhibiting bursal thickening on ultrasound” (Grimaldi and Fearon 2015). 

lateral hip pain

Movements such as crossing your legs, leaning to one side, bringing your knees together, side lying without pillow support can be aggravating and should be avoided  when experiencing high levels of lateral hip pain in attempts to decrease irritation.

Sleeping with a pillow between your legs may be helpful but when sleeping it may feel better to try laying on your back so you aren’t putting pressure on the lateral hip area.

Exercises for lateral hip pain

Starting out with light exercise is the best way to start to reintroduce movement and decrease irritation. Starting out too intense may continue to flare up your pain. Progress as you are able, as pain reduces.

1. Isometric Hip Abduction:

For this movement you can start without a resistance band and make sure it feels okay. After 5-10 reps if you don’t experience an exacerbation of lateral hip pain, grab a resistance band, like these.

Watch the video below for more details on how to complete this movement. 

Isometrics are a type of exercise where you hold and contract your muscles without actively moving.

You will take your legs apart as far as is comfortable then hold for up to 30-45 seconds. Start with a lower amount of time to make sure no pain occurs (preferably 10-15 seconds).

2. Standing Hip Abduction

Side stepping can be the next step as you notice you don’t allow your knee to move past the midline of your body into excessive adduction. 

Incorporating 30-60 seconds of side stepping might be a great place to start but this will definitely depend on your symptoms and level of pain. Use support if needed.

3. Banded side slides

Start with a lighter band and use support if needed. This is one way to work both the muscles on the outer hips and the inside thighs without aggravating lateral hip pain. 

If you do experience lateral hip pain with this, the resistance may be too much or the range of motion may be too far. Try modifying those factors to see if pain reduces. If not, revert back to an earlier exercise in this post.

Complete up to 15 repetitions 2-3 times per week and see how your pain responds. At this point, pain should be pretty well relieved. Watching for pain afterwards is also very important and may indicate your muscle isn’t quite ready for this exercise.

Keeping Hips Healthy

Lateral hip pain may present with hip osteoarthritis but there are certain considerations for lateral hip pain you must be aware of.

Being aware of how you are sitting and standing can help to relieve pressure on the tendons that are most sensitive. 

Keeping this in mind, if you have accompanying hip, knee, ankle, or lower back pain/arthritis, I have created a free 4 day challenge that begins to reintroduce arthritis friendly movements so you can build strength in the right places. 

Once you have calmed down your symptoms, this would be a great next step

Consistency with movement is key to keeping your joints healthy! Can’t wait to see you inside the challenge.


Grimaldi A, Fearon A. Gluteal Tendinopathy: Integrating Pathomechanics and Clinical Features in Its Management. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2015;45(11):910-922. doi:10.2519/jospt.2015.5829
Ladurner A, Fitzpatrick J, O’Donnell JM. Treatment of Gluteal Tendinopathy: A Systematic Review and Stage-Adjusted Treatment Recommendation. Orthop J Sports Med. 2021 Jul 29;9(7):23259671211016850. doi: 10.1177/23259671211016850. PMID: 34377713; PMCID: PMC8330465.

Disclaimer: This post is for general informational purposes only. It should not be used to self-diagnose and it is not a substitute for a medical exam, cure, treatment, diagnosis, and prescription or recommendation. It does not create a doctor-patient relationship between Dr. Kuhn and you. You should not make any change in your health regimen or diet before first consulting a physician and obtaining a medical exam, diagnosis, and recommendation. Move Well Age Well, LLC and Dr. Alyssa Kuhn, PT, DPT are not liable or responsible for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis or any conclusions drawn, services or product you obtain through this post, video or site. Complete all exercises at your own risk.

arthritis adventure blueprint

The Arthritis Adventure Blueprint

Dr. Alyssa Kuhn’s signature program to help you go from hopeless to hopeful with osteoarthritis. You will learn the secrets to arthritis pain relief that actually work- including exercise, diet, and other ways to control inflammation! Say goodbye to short term pain relief, it’s time to make it last.

Follow me on social media here:

arthritic hip groin pain

Arthritic Hip Groin Pain? Avoid this one thing and try these 3 movements instead!

Hip groin pain can be a symptom of hip osteoarthritis but isn’t something you just have to live with. There are ways to find relief and reduce the tight muscle feeling in the front of your hip. Strong research points to movement as a primary intervention to help with this type of pain. In this article you will learn strategies to help you find relief! 

If you have hip osteoarthritis, research has found that some common areas for pain include the groin and the buttocks. 

There can be many different reasons for pain, particularly in this areas, such as muscle imbalances, movement compensations, overuse, increased inflammation, and previous injury, just to name a few. 

Your hip is a complicated joint and can move your leg in three main ways: forward, sideways, and backwards. There is also a degree of rotation, both external and internal rotation. 

When looking at hip groin pain, it is important to rule out a mechanism of injury– meaning was there a specific point of injury where you felt a pull or a pop. If this occurred, there may be something more serious going on and it’s important to seek out help from a medical professional first.

If pain seemed to appear gradually or spontaneously without a specific mechanism of injury and you have a history of hip osteoarthritis, you may find these tips below helpful! 

But first, I want you to know there is hope.

hip osteoarthritis, hip groin pain
arthritic hip groin pain relief

Why your groin is hurting...

First, it’s important to talk about what may be causing the hip groin pain in the first place. 

Think about this.

Your hip primarily moves your leg in 3 directions: forward, sideways, and backwards. 

There are a few muscles that are responsible for advancing your leg forward, for example when walking. Highlighted in the picture below are 2 muscles that are primarily responsible for this movement. Look at the black circles highlighting where they run. 

Now can you see where the groin pain may originate from?

Also, the psoas major connects to the spine so it can have a connection to back pain as well…

hip flexor muscles, hip groin pain

The pain can originate for a few different reasons but one of the common ones is overuse.

Think about how you typically move throughout the day. Walking to the bathroom, kitchen, mailbox, etc. you are likely moving forward. Then if you use walking as exercise, again, you are likely moving forward.

Notice a pattern here? You’re probably doing lots of forward movement so these muscles may be getting a lot of work. They may become irritated and tight. 

Remember, your hip also has muscles that help move sideways and backwards. They may be getting a little neglected without variety in your movement.

Now ask yourself, have you changed the way you walk since developing hip pain/osteoarthritis? Do you find yourself limping?

When you’re limping, its your body’s way of trying to adapt and spend as less time on that leg as possible. Your leg may feel heavy as well. Now, those muscles in the front of your hip are working extra hard to swing your leg forward.

This is one of the reasons for hip groin pain. Now, onto the movement to avoid.

Hip Groin Pain: What to avoid

One commonly prescribed exercise when you are dealing with arthritic hip groin pain may actually end up causing more pain…

But don’t worry, I’m going to give you three movements to try instead! 

So what movement should you avoid? 

The straight leg raise. 

You may have been given this exercise from a physical therapist in the past or saw someone online do it in a video. 

Why should you avoid this

After learning what you just did about the hip muscles, can you see why this one may not be the best? 

This muscle is asking those muscles in the front of your hip to work even harder. When your muscles are irritated, this may increase the pain. 

I do want to say, this is NOT a “bad exercise” that should never be done. As a physical therapist I use this movement quite often in varying situations. 

If you are experiencing hip groin pain and your muscles feel irritated and tight, there may be other movements to prioritize first.

3 movements to focus on instead

Movement variety is your friend, especially if you have hip arthritis. You need support from all sides of the joint to help with pain relief.

If you follow me on instagram, Pinterest, or Youtube, I talk about movement variety A LOT. 

The next three movements will be focused around including more variety and taking the stress off of your hips. 

One of the best ways to incorporate movement variety is to challenge different muscles but in ways that will be nice to your arthritic joints. If you want to skip right ahead, the free 4 day Arthritis Friendly Workout Challenge will help you get started on the right track to variety with follow along videos with me! 

1. Backwards stepping

Moving backwards helps to work the muscles in the back of your hip: primarily your glutes. These muscles are extremely important for hip support. One of the largest muscle extends your leg, i.e moves your leg behind your body. 

Backwards steps can be one way to start to challenge the gluteus maximus (the largest of the 3 gluteal muscles). 

Here is a video demonstration of a simple movement of stepping backwards that you can try. 

If this does not feel good or increases pain significantly, this may not be the best exercise for you to start with and that’s okay. 

Use support as needed and try 5-10 reps each side. 

2. Sideways stepping

Sideways movement works another layer of the gluteal muscles, the gluteus medius

Sideways movement is not something most of us incorporate in our daily lives very often. Unless you are playing sports or consciously moving sideways, that muscle may not be getting as much challenge as it requires.

This is a simple exercise below that you can try to see how it feels for you. Use support if needed and only step out as far as is comfortable. 

Try 5-10 reps on each side to start and increase as you feel confident. This should not increase pain significant. If it does, you may need another variation of this movement. 

3. Hip hinge

With arthritic hip groin pain, the idea is to work other supporting muscles and allow the muscles in the front of your leg to relax. 

This is another great movement that can help take stress off of the hip flexor muscles, while working the backs of your legs. 

The goal is to feel a stretch in the back of your legs by sending your hips back and away from the chair. Go down only as far as is comfortable. 

Try for 8-10 reps of this and see how it feels for you. If it causes significant pain, that’s your joint telling you, “Hi, I need a modification of this please!”

The key to hip groin pain


That’s the key to reducing arthritic hip pain. These are just a few movement suggestions to get started with. 

To make long lasting change, you then need to continue to progress these movements and challenge the muscles in a different way. 

The best way to do that is to sign up for the free 4 Day Arthritis Friendly Workout Challenge. You will get access to 4 workouts led by me that will help make your joints feel good. 

Sign up for that below and get started today towards hip groin pain relief!

arthritis adventure blueprint

The Arthritis Adventure Blueprint

Dr. Alyssa Kuhn’s signature program to help you go from hopeless to hopeful with osteoarthritis. You will learn the secrets to arthritis pain relief that actually work- including exercise, diet, and other ways to control inflammation! Say goodbye to short term pain relief, it’s time to make it last.

Disclaimer: This post is for general informational purposes only. It should not be used to self-diagnose and it is not a substitute for a medical exam, cure, treatment, diagnosis, and prescription or recommendation. It does not create a doctor-patient relationship between Dr. Kuhn and you. You should not make any change in your health regimen or diet before first consulting a physician and obtaining a medical exam, diagnosis, and recommendation. Move Well Age Well, LLC and Dr. Alyssa Kuhn, PT, DPT are not liable or responsible for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis or any conclusions drawn, services or product you obtain through this post, video or site. Complete all exercises at your own risk.

Follow me on social media here:

arthritis weight loss

Arthritis Weight Loss: 5 ways to make it happen and reduce joint pain

Weight loss can be hard. Add arthritis to the mix and now it is even harder! Arthritis weight loss is possible though. It has been shown that reducing weight can help mechanically, meaning less physical pressure through your joints. BUT, losing weight can also reduce the levels of inflammation in your body. This can lead to less joint irritation too! Let’s explore the 5 ways to help make arthritis weight loss possible. 

Benefits of weight loss for arthritis

Many doctors recommend patients to lose weight with arthritis, and with good reason.

The risk of osteoarthritis is greatly increased with weight:  “For every 5kg weight gain, there is a commensurate 36% increased risk for developing OA. In obese individuals, pain is most prevalent in the load-bearing joints including the lower limb and the low back, but can manifest in upper extremity joints, hand and digits, thoracic spine and neck” (Vincent, et al. 2012). 

Weight loss can actually be very powerful in driving osteoarthritis pain relief too. One study found that: 

"Significant pain relief… [was] indicated when weight reduction was more than 15%... of the initial body weight of the individual"

Huang, et al 2000

This same study also mentioned that with a 12% reduction in weight there was a significant increase in functional status for the participants meaning their quality of life and ability to do things was likely greatly improved due to the weight loss

There are many benefits to losing weight with arthritis and is common advice that is given to patients with osteoarthritis.

Problem is…this advice isn’t always accompanied by how to actually do it. That’s what this article is going to help you with! 

1: Prioritize protein

Oftentimes, I find many people are not eating enough protein in their diets, especially women over 50.  Protein is incredibly important for lots of processes in our bodies as well as helping to keep us full. 

For example, protein can help prevent muscle wasting, especially around the joints that take the stress of everyday activities. For example, thigh strength is extremely important when supporting the knee and glute strength is important to support the hip.

But did you know it is also responsible for signaling hunger cues telling us when we are full? Eating protein leads to a longer, more sustained feeling of fullness and can help reduce snacking. 

Protein actually can help reduce joint pain. Yes, you read that right! 

I have a full article here on protein and how it has been compared to the power of anti inflammatory medications when it comes to arthritis pain. You can also check out the video below to learn why protein is an integral part of arthritis weight loss.

2. The right amount of movement

Movement is incredibly effective to impacting lots of different aspects of health including joint pain as well as getting to or maintaining a certain weight. 

With osteoarthritis, the right amount of movement can be more difficult to achieve due to pain and/or stiffness. 

A common misconception is that exercise makes osteoarthritis worse. Exercise is actually vital when looking for osteoarthritis relief. Here is a detailed article about it.

It is possible to find movements your joints like! As a physical therapist who has seen hundreds of people with osteoarthritis, I have found that with the right movements, even patients with bone on bone joints can find movement that doesn’t flare up pain. 

One of the main things I find people are missing in their routine is variety. Too often people are led to believe that walking is the only safe exercise. 

The problem is, walking only works certain muscles as it is primarily performed in one direction: forward. There are muscles that also control sideways and backwards movement. Without moving in those directions, those muscles can get neglected and your joints can miss out on the support. 

I have found when people with osteoarthritis add the right variety to their training, movement doesn’t hurt as much! When movement actually feels good you are more likely to do more of it! 

arthritis weight loss 2
arthritis weight loss

The idea is to include conscious movement at least 30 minutes per day, 3-4 days per week when starting

It is VITAL that you start to add in weight/resistance training to your program if you haven’t already. If you have just been walking – do not stop! Especially if it is something you love.

Try adding in a day of weight training to start, or replace one walking day with a weight training day. You could even choose 1 to 2 exercises per body part and try them every day. Keep building up your strength so that you are able to do 2-4 days of strength training – your joints will thank you.

If you are looking for arthritis friendly workouts, I highly recommend most people start with the free 4 day arthritis friendly workout challenge. You’ll get four days of workouts delivered to your email! 

You can get started right away by filling out the form below. 

3. Focus on food quality

Food quality plays an integral role in arthritis weight loss. 

It’s not so much learning to “avoid” certain food but more of working to include foods that your joints like. 

Food can contribute to inflammation levels in the body which in turn can increase or decrease joint irritation and pain. Learn more about inflammation levels and food here.

Paying more attention to food labels can help to avoid overeating and make sure you are eating quality foods. 

I have an arthritis friendly snack guide here that goes through which ingredients to limit and which can be good for arthritic joints! 

When it comes to arthritis weight loss, it is important to not look just at the calories but what is actually in the foods.

Here are some tips below to look at when you are trying to lose weight from Susan Niebergall who is a fitness trainer and has hip osteoarthritis herself: 

4. Keep it simple

Simplicity can go a long way with arthritis weight loss.

There are many things you can change that can help move the needle with weight loss. It is important to know that everyone is dealing with different factors that could complicate the process. 

For example, menopause, other health conditions, high levels of pain, thyroid conditions, physical limitations, and mental health are just a few that could impact your ability to lose weight.

It can be hard not to compare yourself to others who are posting their success online or people you see in the community. 

Remember, this is your journey.

Trying to change many different things at once not only is unsustainable but can be incredibly overwhelming. 

Usually, the most successful way to approach weight loss is making 1-2 changes at a time. Here are some examples you could start with

  1. Swapping out your favorite ice cream after dinner for a greek yogurt 
  2. Increasing amount of protein at dinner
  3. Plan your breakfast around protein instead of a pastry or high carb muffin. 
  4. Complete at least 15 minutes of daily, conscious movement at least 5 days per week. 
  5. Decrease the amount of time you are sitting during the day and try to get up or move at least every hour.
  6. Try to improve the quality or duration of your sleep by going to bed earlier or writing in journal to unload your thoughts.

As you can see, although these changes may seem small, they can lead to an incredible amount of arthritis weight loss when consistent.

Consistency is one of the MOST VITAL aspects of making weight loss possible.

5. Enjoy the movement and eating you're doing

Enjoyment plays a huge role in the desire to maintain and sustain healthy habits. It’s hard to stick to something you genuinely don’t enjoy doing.

Instead, try to find new meals, new ways of cooking, spices, sauces, etc. to keep things interesting and tasty. Maximize the benefit by trying to find some form of exercise and weightlifting that you truly love and enjoy doing. If that is going out to a class or getting a group of friends together to lift or going for a walk with your family then get out and go. 

Enjoying and loving what you’re doing and eating will lead to habits that are more sustainable and will help you on your journey to lose weight, decrease pain, and get back to doing what you love.

There are so many different ways to eat foods and move in ways that your joints like. There isn’t one particular method that you NEED to follow just because you have osteoarthritis.

I have lots of movement ideas and other arthritis tips and tricks on my youtube channel which you can check out here! 

Arthritis Weight Loss is possible!

I know it can seem impossible to lose weight with osteoarthritis but it is feasible! 

Food and movement can be two of the most important things to start with when beginning your journey. 

I want you to know this is not a quick process. When it comes to weight loss, we can be really hard on ourselves if we don’t see results right away. 

It is important to create long term habits. If you a lot of weight quickly, it may not stay off. Losing weight slowly and with healthy changes can lead to a lifelong results as long as consistency remains. 

It’s important to have balance instead of perfection. It’s not that you can never have your favorite treats or miss a day of exercising. As long as you don’t completely fall off the wagon, a few days isn’t going to make or break your progress. 

The goal of Keep the Adventure Alive is to show you how to thrive and adventure with osteoarthritis. 

If you are feeling overwhelmed with where to start with both food and movement, I put everything in ONE, easy to find place for you.

Inside the Arthritis Adventure Blueprint you will gain access to 12 follow along workouts that safely progress in difficulty. You’ll also get an anti inflammatory grocery and food guide, PLUS so many other helpful resources.

Learn more below:

arthritis adventure blueprint

The Arthritis Adventure Blueprint

Dr. Alyssa Kuhn’s signature program to help you go from hopeless to hopeful with osteoarthritis. You will learn the secrets to arthritis pain relief that actually work- including exercise, diet, and other ways to control inflammation! Say goodbye to short term pain relief, it’s time to make it last.

Article written in collaboration with Kayci Smith, student physical therapist


Huang, Mao‐Hsiung, et al. “The effects of weight reduction on the rehabilitation of patients with knee osteoarthritis and obesity.” Arthritis Care & Research 13.6 (2000): 398-405.

Disclaimer: This post is for general informational purposes only. It should not be used to self-diagnose and it is not a substitute for a medical exam, cure, treatment, diagnosis, and prescription or recommendation. It does not create a doctor-patient relationship between Dr. Kuhn and you. You should not make any change in your health regimen or diet before first consulting a physician and obtaining a medical exam, diagnosis, and recommendation. Move Well Age Well, LLC and Dr. Alyssa Kuhn, PT, DPT are not liable or responsible for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis or any conclusions drawn, services or product you obtain through this post, video or site. Complete all exercises at your own risk.

ankle with arthritis relief

5 simple ways to find relief in ankle with arthritis from a physical therapist

An ankle with arthritis can be tricky but there are ways you can find relief! There are a few important aspects to finding relief including building ankle muscle strength as well as making sure it is moving how it should. Research points to conservative treatment as the first step in treatment including weight loss, movement, physical therapy, NSAIDs, activity modifications and the potential use of orthotics before surgical options are explored. 

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If you are dealing with an ankle with arthritis, it can be hard to figure out what the first step is.

Research continues to encourage and support exercise and other conservative treatments first. Problem is, most often, people are prescribed medications and sent on their way with limited guidance

Despite the high rates of pharmacological treatment of OA in primary care, international OA clinical guidelines emphasise self-management such as exercise and weight loss (if overweight/obese), and the use of conservative non-pharmacological interventions as first-line treatment

K.L Paterson et al 2018

In this article we will explore 5 ways you can manage your ankle pain and find ways you can continue to lead an active lifestyle.

What helps an ankle with arthritis?

Have arthritis in your ankle? Is it limiting your walking ability or simply making standing hard? 

You use your ankle for MANY things throughout the day. Activities like walking down stairs and walking up hills require more ankle range of motion then walking on flat ground as seen in the picture below. 

ankle with arthritis going down stairs

If your ankle feels stiff and/or painful, bending in these directions may not be the most comfortable.

This is why it’s so important to work on getting your ankle to be more mobile. Muscle strength is also very important to help to support the ankle with arthritis as some of the cartilage (used to absorb stress before it reaches the joint) may not be functioning as efficiently.

Your ankle plays a large role in how balanced you feel too. You may notice that when you started experiencing ankle stiffness and/or pain that you may not feel as stable especially on uneven ground.

These are things that are important to address in order to get your ankle feeling better and ready to take on your next adventure.

5 simple ways to find relief: where to start

Osteoarthritis symptoms are typically caused by increase in low grade chronic inflammation which can irritate the joint and surrounding tissues. You can find out more about the causes in this video here.

It is important to build a strong, stable, mobile ankle to have success when you have an ankle with arthritis. You’re in the right place! 

1. Work on mobility

As we saw in the picture above, you need specific ranges of ankle mobility to make tasks like walking especially on hills and stairs. The movement that is shown above is called dorsiflexion.

Dorsiflexion is the angle from the shin to the ankle. This is one of the most important ankle movements. 

You can test to see how much dorsiflexion you have by using this video here. Please note this should not cause pain so do not force the joint in a position is doesn’t want to be in. 

If you feel a pinching or sharp pain- you may be trying to push your ankle too far. 

The idea for this one is make sure you keep your heel on the ground in order to work the true range of motion. 

Trying to complete 5-8 reps in a comfortable range of motion can help to loosen it up, especially if you have a lot of walking ahead of you. 

2. Strengthen the stabilizers

Your ankle is comprised of many small bones and supported by different muscles that connect down into your foot. You can see just how many there are in the picture below.

ankle with arthritis muscle
Photo by Nino Liverani on Unsplash

There are specific muscles that are known as the stabilizer muscles: your calf muscles (2), the shin muscle, and another set called the peroneals.

When walking on uneven ground, when trying to balance, and even when walking- these muscles are working hard to make sure your ankle is stable.

If you have decreased your activity level since dealing with an ankle with arthritis these muscles can become less efficient. This can then lead to more stress going to different joints. 

Here are some examples on how to strengthen these muscles below.

Calf and Shin Muscles


Keep in mind, these movements should not increase pain significantly. If they do are are other alternatives to these movements that can help. You can find more options here.

3. improving balance

The tandem band pass balance exercise above is one example how you can both strengthen the peroneal muscles while also improving your balance. Balance and strength are connected and can help tremendously in relieving pain from ankle with arthritis. 

When you are trying to balance, all of your small ankle muscles are working together to support the joint and keep it stable. Learn more about balance here.

If these muscles aren’t properly working together because of tightness, weakness, etc- it may cause you to lose your balance or feel unstable. Working on balance at least every day can be very helpful to your ankle.

I have a full 5 video series that incorporates many different balance movements that will challenge your ankle in many ways here:

When testing balance, it can also be beneficial to try on uneven or unstable surfaces such as a foam pad or a bosu ball (like in the video below) once you feel confident on hard, flat ground.

There are many other movements you can do on a bosu ball but here is an example:

4. Minimize inflammation from other sources

It has been shown that other health conditions can coincide with ankle osteoarthritis. Many chronic conditions can contribute to increased low grade inflammation in your body such as diabetes and hypertension

Comorbidities were often managed during foot/ankle OA encounters. Nearly two thirds (65.5%) of encounters involved management of two or more problems (results not tabled). The comorbidities most frequently managed were hypertension, lipid disorders, depression, diabetes, and immunisations/vaccinations.

K.L Paterson et al. 2018

It is important to note that other factors besides movement can play an impact on your ankle osteoarthritis pain. Other lifestyle factors such as weight gain and smoking can actually contribute to worsening pain. 

Among ankles with rAOA (radiographic ankle osteoarthritis) at baseline, currently versus never smoking was associated with over 3 times the odds of worsening FAOS (Foot and Ankle Outcome Score) symptoms. Additionally, higher BMI (body mass index) and additional symptomatic joints were associated with 30–40% higher odds of worsening FAOS symptoms

A. Jaleel et al 2022

Keeping conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol under control can actually help your ankle with arthritis. 

You may have heard that weight loss can contribute to decreased osteoarthritis pain as well. Excess fat tissue increases the amount of inflammation in your body. You can listen to this instagram post to learn more.

So what can you do to help reduce sources of inflammation? Find out 15 ways to reduce inflammation in this article here! 

5. Be consistent

It can be frustrating if you are following certain movements or changing other lifestyle factors for a week without noticing any results. 

But, especially if you have been dealing with osteoarthritis pain for a while, it may take time for you to start feeling significant relief. 

Being consistent for at least 2-3 months can start to elicit great results when it comes to managing osteoarthritis pain. Too often though, many tend to give up right before the breakthrough happens! 

Starting with a schedule of doing 2-3 specific movements/stretches from above and including other types of activities that do feel good is great place to start. Sidestepping can be a great way to move and strengthen other areas of your body without flaring up your ankle pain too! 


Tackling Pain in your Ankle with Arthritis

These five ways listed above are a great way to get started when it comes to managing and reducing ankle arthritis pain. It’s important to not only look at strength and mobility but also other lifestyle factors as many times those are forgotten about. 

If you are looking for ways to manage your osteoarthritis pain, get your ankle moving, and improve your balance, I highly recommend starting with the free 4 day arthritis friendly workout challenge

You will get 4 days of workouts that progress in difficulty and offer a great place to start. Sign up for free down below! 


Jaleel A, Golightly YM, Alvarez C, Renner JB, Nelson AE. Incidence and progression of ankle osteoarthritis: The johnston county osteoarthritis project. Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2021;51(1):230-235. doi:10.1016/j.semarthrit.2020.10.015

Paterson KL, Harrison C, Britt H, Hinman RS, Bennell KL. Management of foot/ankle osteoarthritis by Australian general practitioners: an analysis of national patient-encounter records. Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2018;26(7):888-894. doi:10.1016/j.joca.2018.03.013

Disclaimer: This post is for general informational purposes only. It should not be used to self-diagnose and it is not a substitute for a medical exam, cure, treatment, diagnosis, and prescription or recommendation. It does not create a doctor-patient relationship between Dr. Kuhn and you. You should not make any change in your health regimen or diet before first consulting a physician and obtaining a medical exam, diagnosis, and recommendation. Move Well Age Well, LLC and Dr. Alyssa Kuhn, PT, DPT are not liable or responsible for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis or any conclusions drawn, services or product you obtain through this post, video or site. Complete all exercises at your own risk.

arthritis adventure blueprint

The Arthritis Adventure Blueprint

Dr. Alyssa Kuhn’s signature program to help you go from hopeless to hopeful with osteoarthritis. You will learn the secrets to arthritis pain relief that actually work- including exercise, diet, and other ways to control inflammation! Say goodbye to short term pain relief, it’s time to make it last.

does exercise make osteoarthritis worse

Does exercise make osteoarthritis worse? What most don’t tell you- Updated 2022

The answer is no, exercise doesn’t make osteoarthritis worse. It can actually be pain relieving when done right. A common misconception about osteoarthritis is that it is caused by “wear and tear” and thus, people significantly reduce physical activity levels. But, rest may be causing more harm than good. Research has shown that moderate loading of cartilage (or exercise) is necessary to maintain its health and prevent further harm. If you are not loading your joint, i.e if you have decreased your activity levels, processes that favor cartilage break down then begin. Exercise helps to keep your cartilage from further break down. The right amount and type of exercise is important though.

I was just talking with a client about this yesterday. She had mentioned that she had given up exercise the past two years and had a common question that she was never able to get answered: Does exercise make osteoarthritis worse?

Without an answer, she had just given up on exercise.

I find this belief SO common in people that have arthritis. Many people are scared to exercise because of fear of causing more “damage” in their joint. I mean it makes sense right, if you don’t have any cartilage, the less you move, the more you will “save” your joint?

WRONG! This is one of the BIGGEST myths about osteoarthritis and I am going to explain why.

Does exercise make osteoarthritis worse?

Osteoarthritis typically involves your cartilage which acts like a cushion in between your joints. It helps to absorb stress to prevent too much from going to your joint.

When you are diagnosed with osteoarthritis, there are likely lots of thoughts and pictures going through your mind about what is actually happening inside your joint.

You may be told that your cartilage is “wearing away” or is “deteriorating”. You may also hear that “you have not cartilage left” and/or that you are bone on bone. These things can be scary to hear!

With all of these misconceptions about cartilage, no wonder why you are left wondering if exercise makes osteoarthritis worse!

Think of your cartilage in your joint, just like your muscles. If you don’t use your muscles, they will likely lose strength just like the adage “use it or lose it”. Same thing applies to your cartilage. How do you use your cartilage? By standing up and moving! Your cartilage works best under pressure but it has to be the right pressure.

When you don’t challenge your cartilage, for example if you are sedentary or spend a majority of our time sitting or laying down, this can cause problems. The cartilage you do have then gets weaker which can cause more irritation to surrounding structures, hence more pain.

Exercise doesn’t inherently make osteoarthritis worse. Your body is meant to move. But one of the biggest mistakes I see people making is that they are avoiding exercise and limiting movement because they don’t know if they are helping or further harming their joint….

And yes, even with bone on bone arthritis, exercise can be really powerful!

Is exercise helpful if you have osteoarthritis?

One of the most common questions I see from people who are newly diagnosed with osteoarthritis is “Does exercise make osteoarthritis worse?”. Let’s dive into the reasoning as to why the answer is no!

Youtube video: Does exercise make osteoarthritis worse?
  • Gives your cartilage the challenge it needs. Your cartilage is meant to absorb the load that is going through your joint (i.e when doing weight bearing activities like standing and walking). Regular loading helps our cartilage become stronger. If we don’t challenge it, it becomes less effective. Think about it like this, if you used to be an accountant but haven’t done any accounting tasks for at least 10-15 years- you become less effective at it when you try to go back. Same thing with your cartilage. If you significantly decrease your activity levels, your cartilage doesn’t have to work as hard. It may start to become less effective and potentially painful. If we give our cartilage the exercise it craves, it is able to stay much healthier.
  • Improves blood flow to your cartilage. This helps to clear out some of the inflammatory cells that are irritating your cartilage and bring in new, healthy cells. When you exercise, you are doing wonderful things for your blood. So what does your blood have to do with your cartilage? According to the research, exercise helps your blood flow more freely. This is important because this is how our red blood cells transport oxygen and other vital minerals to our muscles, organs, and joints. If our blood becomes thick and sludgy with higher cholesterol and other effects of a sedentary lifestyle, it makes it much harder to transport these materials efficiently.
  • Makes your cartilage stronger. Research shows that exercise has been proven to increase the strength of your cartilage. This is especially helpful when you have lost some of the cartilage due to arthritis. You can actually strengthen what you do have.
  • Exercise fights the inflammation. Osteoarthritis is typically triggered by a low grade chronic inflammation. This means that you have a constant state of inflammation in your body that isn’t meant to be there. There are many things that can contribute to the accumulation of this inflammation. Obesity, high blood pressure, and inactivity are a few. Research shows that using exercise can create anti-inflammatory effects. Exercise can decrease the amount of body fat (adipose tissue) which is highly correlated with the level of inflammation in your body. It can also suppress specific cells that are responsible for creating inflammation.
  • Gets the bad cells out of there. It has been found that moderate intensity exercise activates a process called autophagy. This is a fancy word for a process involving cell recycling. Essentially when you exercise, it activates recycling cells in your muscle to get rid of the inflammatory cells and bring in new healthy cells. This is much like a garbage truck that comes in and picks up the garbage to take it out. Without this process, you continue to collect these “garbage cells” which can lead to more irritation and higher pain levels.
  • Builds muscle strength to support your joint. Your joint isn’t meant to do all of the work. It needs support from your muscles to decrease the irritation and pain. If you were asked to do the job of three of your co-workers combined, you probably would be irritated too! There have been multiple studies that show if you increase muscular strength around an arthritic joint, there are significant decrease in joint pain and improvements in mobility.
  • For the knees and hips specifically…squats are not bad for joints (when done correctly!) I teamed up with Tommy, CEO of Vekhayn to help explain the misconceptions around squats and considerations you need in order to do them correctly! The best thing to do is improve the way your joints are aligned by improving strength and fixing some asymmetries you may have! This is especially important if you notice more pain on one side than the other or one side feels weaker than the other. Both of these situations make you more susceptible to pain and injury. Read the full post here.

Exercise is one way to continue to challenge and strengthen our cartilage. We do need to make sure it is the right exercise though. If we are challenging it too much with lots of high impact activities or overloading it with too much volume, it can also start to break down. Learning how to exercise the right way though, can bring you life changing osteoarthritis pain relief.

Exercises that may make osteoarthritis worse

There are certain movements that can actually lead to more osteoarthritis pain but it’s not as black and white as you may think.

Exercises that make osteoarthritis worse are those that make your joint mad. Those movements that drive up your pain or send you into a flare up. The hard part is, there is not an explicit list of things you should avoid even though the internet wants you to believe you shouldn’t ever do squats (learn how to do squats here), lunges, etc. This is simply not true.

Think about it, is there anything you do that tends to make your pain worse? Whether it’s squats, stairs, walking for longer distances, etc. it is important to take note of these and then learn to get better at them!

Lots of times movements can cause pain if there is underlying muscle weakness, poor movement patterns, or simply too much of that movement. Overdoing certain movements can increase pain as well. These factors are important to consider before demonizing exercise.

There is no one movement that you aren’t able to do with osteoarthritis. Heck, you can even run and jump with osteoarthritis once your joints are prepared. The key is in the preparation. Yes, certain movements may hurt now but it is possible to be able to squat, lunge, walk, and do all kinds of movements even with osteoarthritis. You just have to make sure your joints are ready for them.

If you’re joints aren’t prepared for these movements and you continue to push through the significant pain, you may be making your osteoarthritis pain and symptoms worse. So how do you know what pains to push through and when to stop and modify? Check out this video below:

There aren’t any specific exercises that make osteoarthritis worse. It is simply those that flare up your pain significantly. You have to work to prepare your joints for those movements again.

Squats are a popular one. One woman I was recently seeing with knee osteoarthritis dreaded squats because they always caused her pain. But after just a few simple modifications that prepared her joints to squat- she actually loves them now, even with added weight of a kettlebell! Take a look here.

Here is a post detailing how to start working on squats if that is a difficult movement for you.

Even if you have movements that flare up your pain now, you can absolutely work up to them. There is no one movement that you should totally avoid because you have osteoarthritis.

More on the four day exercise challenge here

How to prevent pain with exercise

Gradually increase into whichever activity you choose. If you want to start walking, cycling, hiking, swimming or lifting weights– it is important that you set a plan for yourself. Let’s take walking for example. If you want to start walking for exercise, start with once around the block or 1/2 mile. See how your joints respond.

If there is no significant pain or stiffness immediately after or the next day, you can increase by half of what you walked before. So now you can try 3/4 mile and again see how you respond.

If you notice significant pain (5+/10) or swelling afterwards, you can reduce the distance by half and try again! Don’t give up if this happens! This is just a sign that you’re joint is telling you “I’m not ready for this right now“.

The problem usually occurs when we start out exercising maybe once a month then increase to 4-5 times per week of intense exercise. Too much exercise too quickly can give our joints more than they can handle. This is when people typically give up on exercise because they tried and it caused more pain.

Just remember, no exercise can be equally as harmful.

The best course of action is to find something you like to do or want to try. Gradually work your way into it. Start with 2-3 days per week with 1 rest day in between. Try that consistently for about 1 month, then increase.

Add variety to your exercise routine. Osteoarthritis can exhibit pain when we are loading one part of our joint too much. Take for example, if you have knee pain. You may feel more pain on the inside of your knee compared to the outside. Or the shoulder- you may feel more pain in the front of your shoulder than in the back. This can contribute to cartilage overload in that area.

With this overload, continuous repetitions can potentially lead to more pain.

Variety in your exercise routine.

In order to use exercise to your advantage with osteoarthritis, variety is key. Let’s use walking again for example. If walking is your primary form of exercise, you are working the same muscles over and over again. The fronts of your legs are primarily working to propel you forward.

But what about the backs of your legs, your core, and your arms? These muscles help you do movements other than walking.

Adding in other movements can help with managing osteoarthritis pain and working other parts of your joint.

I always tell people that adding in just a few simple exercises before or after your routine can make a huge difference! If you need some ideas here are a few quick videos you can watch:

Shoulder exercises

Standing core exercises

Balance exercises

Knee and hip exercises

Lower back exercises

When can exercise be detrimental?

It is worth mentioning, exercise can increase your pain. Like we have talked about above, overactivity is one of the main causes of this. No more thinking “no pain, no gain”. Listen to your body.

If your pain levels are too high and are “pushing through” anyways, you will just continue to irritate our joint and you will have a rough night ahead like we talked about in the video above.

If you are doing lots of running or jumping without previous training, you may be overloading your cartilage. This is not saying you can never do these things again. You have to make sure your joints and muscles are ready to handle that type of activity though.

Making sure your balance, single leg strength, and core are ready to go is very important. If you have a goal of doing one of these higher level activities, it is best to seek out a physical therapist to clear you to do so or take a look at my signature online course: The Arthritis Adventure Blueprint.

Does walking make osteoarthritis worse?

Walking by itself does not make osteoarthritis worse, which may be a sigh of relief for those of you who love walking. There is one mistake that I commonly see made, though.

Limiting your physical activity to just walking-may actually increase your pain. Or if you have ever wondered why your pain doesn’t seem to get better even though you are walking everyday, this could be why.

So what is this reason? Like I mentioned above, arthritis thrives when we don’t have variety. Adding in variety to our movements helps to disperse the stress to your joint instead of stressing the same part of of the joint over and over again.

This video below helps to explain how exactly to add variety to your walking program!

So does exercise make osteoarthritis worse?

No. Exercise can make a dramatic impact on our pain when we do the right amount and type of exercise. Remember, gradually start exercise instead of going 0-100. Make sure you are adding variety to your training. Understand your cartilage loves movement but not when it is overloaded. Exercise is so powerful and can help you keep your adventure alive.

If you have osteoarthritis your main priority should be finding movements that don’t flare up your pain, whatever those are for you. I have a youtube video you can start with if you’re not sure how to move without pain! Check it out here.

Looking to get rid of osteoarthritis pain once and for all?

There is hope if you have osteoarthritis and it doesn’t have to be a death sentence to everything you love doing. If you are feeling worried about your future and want to do what is in your power to control your pain, I have the perfect ebook for you down below.

In this free webclass below you will learn the 3 Secrets to Adventuring with Osteoarthritis. It is possible to live an active life and do all the activities you love. The hard part is, many people are unsure of where to start or the steps to take in order to make pain relief possible.

The webclass below is totally free, sign up to watch it instantly!


Dr. Alyssa Kuhn is a physical therapist and founder of Keep the Adventure Alive. Her main mission is to turn frustrations from arthritis and chronic joint pain to hope and confidence. She doesn’t want you missing out on important memories anymore. Keeping your adventure alive is possible with osteoarthritis. Check out her book, Move Well Age Well: How to Rock the Later Years with Fitness and Mindset HERE and her signature Arthritis Adventure Blueprint Online Course HERE.

Disclaimer: This post is for general informational purposes only. It should not be used to self-diagnose and it is not a substitute for a medical exam, cure, treatment, diagnosis, and prescription or recommendation. It does not create a doctor-patient relationship between Dr. Kuhn and you. You should not make any change in your health regimen or diet before first consulting a physician and obtaining a medical exam, diagnosis, and recommendation. Move Well Age Well, LLC and Dr. Alyssa Kuhn, PT, DPT are not liable or responsible for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis or any conclusions drawn, services or product you obtain through this post, video or site. Complete all exercises at your own risk.

how is osteoarthritis diagnosed

How is osteoarthritis diagnosed: 4 ways to know if you have it

How is osteoarthritis diagnosed? Do you have a suspicion that your joint stiffness, swelling, and pain may be caused by osteoarthritis? Not sure what comes next? Getting a diagnosis can be a scary process, but is absolutely necessary to understand how to treat, stop progress of a disease, and ultimately get you back on track to a life full of adventure. 

If you are experiencing new onset joint pain, stiffness, or just something in your joint(s) feels off- figuring out what is going on is important. 

Assuming and/or just trying to forget about the symptoms can actually lead to increased severity of symptoms if they aren’t addressed…

I meet people all the time wishing they had taken action sooner but instead assumed that osteoarthritis is just “normal” as you get older. 

The reality is, the quicker you know what is going on, the quicker you are able to take action to reduce the symptoms and slow the progression. 

Here are 4 ways doctors and other medical professionals use to rule in or rule out osteoarthritis. 

1. Look at your symptoms

The first thing when diagnosing osteoarthritis, or truly any disease, is to look at what your symptoms are, when they occur, how severe they are, etc.

It helps to pay close attention to the things that cause the most pain, limitations, or impede your daily life. These are essential to being able to relay that information to your doctor so that they can get a clear picture of what is going on with your individual case. 

There are symptoms that are common to osteoarthritis which are described in the video below. You can also read more about what osteoarthritis typically feels like in this post here.

Symptoms play a pivotal role when looking at how to diagnose osteoarthritis so knowing the common ones can give you vital information.

 If you suspect osteoarthritis may be at the root of your symptoms, try and keep a journal of what is going on.

Note when the symptom goes on, how bad it is, and when it goes away/things you do to make the symptoms less severe. It is important for clinicians to get a clear story of what is going on so that they may begin to rule in and rule out different diagnoses they suspect.

With a journal you will better be able to track trends associated with your symptoms. For example, if you notice after you walk a certain distance or on concrete more pain or stiffness- associating these two things will help tremendously with the treatment plan. 

2. Physical Exam by a professional

When you visit a doctor, one of the first questions they usually ask is about your symptoms. Hopefully, with that last bit of information, you are equipped with the knowledge and your journal of how your symptoms manifest so that you are able to tell your whole story to the doctor.

They will also likely ask you about previous medical history and figure out if there are any identifiable risk factors for OA in your life.

There are lots of risk factors that are associated with osteoarthritis including family history, level of activity, other health conditions like diabetes, among others. 

Communication is extremely vital between you and the doctor or medical professional you are seeing. If you aren’t sure who to see to help you with your joint pain- read this article.

If a doctor doesn’t ask something you think they should have – don’t be afraid to speak up! Doctors are not perfect and any information you can relay to them may help with a better, more accurate diagnosis for your individual case.

What to expect

Say you made an appointment to address knee pain you have been experiencing. A physical exam may be part of the process on how to diagnose osteoarthritis.

The doctor will likely assess your knee and other joints for various hallmark signs of OA, some that you yourself may not have even noticed!

They will visually examine the joint(s) for swelling, asymmetry from side to side, different bony contours, etc. They will also feel your joint for warmth, tenderness, bony protrusions or knobs, muscle wasting (atrophy), pain, and crepitus.

They will also ask you to move the joint through the range of motion and then passively repeat this to assess your range of motion.

They will look at the way you walk (your gait) to assess for compensations or abnormalities.

They will then take this information and decide on the next step. 

3. Imaging

Imaging such as x-rays, MRIs, and other scans are commonly ordered to help diagnose osteoarthritis.

But, images on their own, don’t particularly give the whole picture.

Research has actually shown that just because you having findings of narrowing of the joint space, and wear to your cartilage- it doesn’t automatically mean pain. 

"The prevalence of knee osteoarthritis features on MRI in otherwise healthy, asymptomatic, uninjured knees is high—up to 43% in adults aged ≥40 years."

Culvenor et al, 2019

This means that someone could have the exact same x-ray you do and may not experience any pain at all.

This is why your own personal history, signs and symptoms are the most relevant piece of information. This will give more insight into how to treat, stop progression, and return to your active lifestyle.  

Imaging is simply an adjunct test to one’s history to give even more insight to the condition and is very useful in most instances.

What imaging can you expect?

The two most likely methods of imaging are X-rays and MRIs.

X-rays are typically used for bone and MRIs are typically used to look at soft tissues such as muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

On the x-ray the clinician will be looking for the most hallmark signs of OA: joint space narrowing, osteophyte formation (bone spurs), subchondral sclerosis (thickening of bone), and cysts (Braun, Hillary J., and Garry E. Gold, 2012).

The MRI will give a more in depth look at the muscles surrounding the affected joint as well as the cartilage damage that may occur with osteoarthritis.

Some level of caution

I often hear people seeking out an MRI or an x-ray to “see what is going on inside their joint”. The problem with this is that many of these images are unnecessary and can actually negatively impact your pain. 

You cannot “unsee” your image once you get one. If the image is described or even looks worse than originally thought, you may actually begin to experience more pain…

This video below goes into when you should consider an MRI and when one may not be necessary. 

4. Blood tests, Arthrocentesis

Blood tests and/or arthrocentesis (pulling fluid out from an affected joint with a needle) may be used in order to primarily rule out or exclude other diagnoses that may mimic osteoarthritis.

The primary one they will be looking for is rheumatoid arthritis. It is important to rule out rheumatoid arthritis as it does require different routes of treatment if discovered.

When looking at how is osteoarthritis diagnosed, there aren’t any specific blood markers that indicate the condition. There are certain things such as levels of inflammation, A1C, vitamin D, and other options for testing that could aid in ruling out other conditions and helping to create a treatment plan that may be necessary. 

So I have osteoarthritis, now what?

If you have been told you have osteoarthritis based upon these above tests, I’m so glad you’re here. My main mission at Keep the Adventure Alive is to give you the best information possible along with hope to continue adventuring even with osteoarthritis.

I meet people ALL THE TIME who aren’t sure the first step they should take to reduce their pain and start tackling osteoarthritis. 

I have taken the knowledge and experience from treating hundreds of people with osteoarthritis and created a step by step process that has helped so many get out of pain and get back to doing what they love. 

This is inside the Arthritis Adventure Blueprint. Instead of scouring the internet and wasting time on supplements, fancy braces and other things that don’t work- now you have access to something that is tested and proven by a physical therapist! 

Learn more about this step by step program below so you can get started on your adventure right now! 

how is osteoarthritis diagnosed
how is osteoarthritis diagnosed


Braun, Hillary J., and Garry E. Gold. “Diagnosis of osteoarthritis: imaging.” Bone 51.2 (2012): 278-288.

Culvenor AGØiestad BEHart HF, et al. Prevalence of knee osteoarthritis features on magnetic resonance imaging in asymptomatic uninjured adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Guest writer and contributor: Kayci Smith, SPT at the University of Utah

Disclaimer: This post is for general informational purposes only. It should not be used to self-diagnose and it is not a substitute for a medical exam, cure, treatment, diagnosis, and prescription or recommendation. It does not create a doctor-patient relationship between Dr. Kuhn and you. You should not make any change in your health regimen or diet before first consulting a physician and obtaining a medical exam, diagnosis, and recommendation. Move Well Age Well, LLC and Dr. Alyssa Kuhn, PT, DPT are not liable or responsible for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis or any conclusions drawn, services or product you obtain through this post, video or site.

knee arthritis pain dos and don'ts

9 Do’s and Don’ts if you have knee arthritis pain

If you have knee arthritis pain, it is important to know which things you should and shouldn’t be doing, especially if you are searching for pain relief. As a physical therapist that exclusively works with clients with osteoarthritis- I have found 9 common things that I find myself telling clients to do or avoid. I have included this list below!

This article may contain affiliate links in which Keep the Adventure Alive gets a small compensation if you purchase from the links at no extra cost to you.

Lowdown on knee arthritis pain

If you have knee arthritis pain, movement can seem very overwhelming. It can be difficult to figure out why your knee is angry and how to reduce pain levels. Let me tell you- cortisone shots, and surgical procedures aren’t always the answer. 

Depending on the stage of your knee osteoarthritis- there are typically 5 stages– your first step towards relief may vary. 

I do want you to know something though: whether you are in the mild stages or if you are bone on bone, there is still hope for relief. Learn more about bone on bone knees here.

Essentially your first step is to figure out what is flaring up your joint pain and figuring out how to reduce these triggers. Problem is, there are a lot of things that can flare up your pain and some aren’t always the most obvious. 

Following these simple do’s and don’ts below can help you get started on finding out how to reduce your knee arthritis pain. 

1. Do get a second opinion

Just like all other fields, doctors, physicians, and surgeons all have different ways of looking at things. Same goes with physical therapists and other medical professionals. 

You may be told many different things when it comes to “fixes” for knee arthritis pain. You would be amazed at what some people are told…

It is so important to find an arthritis specialist that understands you and understands your goals. More on that here.

It is always important to get a second opinion or a new perspective on your arthritis pain. Before deciding on a procedure, injection, or surgery- have someone else take a look at your situation.

This is not saying you shouldn’t trust the medical professional giving you the original opinion.  But, someone else may think of something or see something that someone else may have missed. This is especially important before deciding on a joint replacement surgery.

I have met many people who were told: 

  • not to exercise 
  • to avoid squats 
  • that surgery is the only way for relief
  • to only do lower impact exercise 
  • that physical therapy wouldn’t work for them

In these circumstances, this can lead you down a path of depression, inactivity, and hopelessness- a scenario that you are likely trying to avoid! 

Keeping an open mind and allowing for a new perspective on your situation can help to open your eyes to all of your options! 

2. Don't overdo it

I know this one may sound easier said than done but hear me out.

One of the main problems I see as a physical therapist primarily treating clients with hip and knee osteoarthritis is the difficulty of managing and preventing flare ups. 

Has this ever happened to you? Your knee is finally feeling good so you decide to clean the house, run a few errands, and even walk a few miles with a friend in the evening. Then, when trying to go to sleep that night- your knee is throbbing

This typically happens when too much activity is done to a point where your joint is sending you signals saying it was too much. 

Anytime you experience pain, think of it as your joint is trying to tell you something. Whether it was too much of a certain activity without the right muscle support or stability or sometimes the opposite, not enough activity. 

Here is a video on overactivity and how to prevent overdoing it.

3. Do include variety

If you are primarily walking or cycling for exercise to help with your knee arthritis pain, there is something else you can include to maximize your pain reduction and actually make it last…

It is something simple but something that is commonly overlooked and missed. 

Thinking about how you typically move throughout the day, what direction are you primarily going? For most of us, it’s going to be forwards. Unless you are playing sports or have heard me talk about this already, you may be missing this one thing…which is VARIETY. 

knee arthritis pain fear (1)

Too often, daily life requires one direction. Walking to the mailbox, walking out to the car, walking into the store, walking to the kitchen- we move forwards A LOT. But what about the muscles that help us move sideways and backwards? They don’t get much love usually. 

These muscles are incredibly important though to support your joints, especially in the knee. 

If you then are adding walking and/or cycling as your primary form of exercise- that includes more forwards movement.

Simply adding sideways and backwards movement as a warm up or after your walking or cycling routine can be really powerful. It is how many clients I’ve worked with have unlocked things like deep squats, walking longer distances, sleeping through the night, and even running.

Learn more on how you can mix up your routine here.

4. Don't rest too long

Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely a time and a place for rest. Your joints do need rest in certain situations. 

But resting too much and avoiding movement can actually increase pain. Below is a common fear that many people have with knee arthritis pain and you may have experienced the same thoughts in the past.

knee arthritis pain fear

The more you rest, does not correlate with “saving your joints” or making the cartilage last longer.

Actually, contrary to popular belief, cartilage responds best when it is under stress during exercise for example. Here’s more on how that works

The less you use your cartilage, the more that you will typically lose. Along the same lines with muscle and the popular “use it or lose it” saying. Even if you are bone on bone it is important to move. 

Without movement you can also experience secondary consequences such as muscle weakness, weight gain, weakening of bones, and chronic disease. With osteoarthritis, it is imperative that movement is at least a part of your day, everyday. 

Even if you are bone on bone and are thinking “it’s too difficult to move because everything hurts” I have a workout here that will change your mind 🙂

5. Do Learn to Squat

It is impossible to avoid squats in daily life. This is why it is so important you learn to do so without excruciating pain. 

So many people become scared to squat because of the fear that it may cause more damage. Others may have been told to just avoid squats all together from a medical professional or by family members or friends.

Do you relate to her below?

knee arthritis pain squats

Squatting is ENTIRELY possible whether you deal with low or high levels of knee arthritis pain.  Its just about finding the best ways to be able to squat without flaring up your pain or making your knees angry. 

But let me tell you something, if you are looking to be able to use the bathroom, get in and out of the car, and sit on the couch- you have to be able to do a squat. There is hope.

Here is a post talking through the 5 reasons of why you are having knee pain with squatting and what to do about it.

6. Don't accept "take it easy" as a treatment

This is one of the most frustrating pieces of advice lots of people are given when it comes to osteoarthritis and you may have been told this too.

In terms of dealing with pain, “take it easy” is typically not going to lead to relief long term. 

If you are in a flare up, sure, temporary rest can be very powerful. 

But, one of the most powerful ways to relieve joint pain is to incorporate some degree of movement whether it’s gentle seated exercise or other strengthening movements.

As one of the Arthritis Adventure Blueprint members describes, she was simply told to “take it easy” when her pain flared after working a full week. 

knee arthritis options

The best thing to do to reduce knee arthritis pain and prevent it from recurring is finding what is triggering your pain. This could be the type of activity, muscle weakness, instability, footwear (especially if on concrete, this is my favorite brand), foods you’re eating, etc.

By building muscle strength and reducing inflammation- you can begin unlocking longer term pain relief. Here’s what is possible if you follow the the right path towards relief. This is the same woman from above. 

knee arthritis pain hope

If you’re looking to get started on this path so you can stop wasting time with things that don’t work, I have put everything into the Arthritis Adventure Blueprint to make pain relief possible for you too.

7. Do pay attention to food quality

Food quality can play such a vital role in how your joints feel but is rarely talked about during appointments with medical professionals in traditional healthcare. 

This usually isn’t your fault though. Many times professionals may say, “just lose weight” as their attempt to address nutrition. I mean really, those words provide zero help

Instead, focusing on managing inflammation by looking at the quality of your foods such as what type of ingredients are in the foods and how they impact your blood sugar. Learning more about these things can actually give you specific strategies that will lead to more success with weight loss and inflammation control.

Here is a video below with Dr. Morgan Nolte, a good friend and physical therapist who explains in detail what insulin resistance is and why you need to know about it if you have osteoarthritis.

If you are looking to change the way you eat and start feeding your body foods it actually likes, here is a guide to help you get started.

8. Don't Give up on your active life

Just because you have osteoarthritis does not mean you cannot lead an active life. It is possible to get your symptoms under control so you are able to do the things you want to.

By taking the right steps you can make all kinds of things possible from walking around the store to finally getting in the car with ease. You can return to hiking and even get back to running. 

There are lots of possibilities and I find a lot of the times you are led to believe you can never be active again…

Here is an empowering story about overcoming osteoarthritis.

The most difficult part is knowing what you need to focus on to make these things possible. When you find those missing pieces, you can open the door to so many possibilites.

knee arthritis pain exercise

Just knowing what is possible can be very powerful. 

Right now, think of something you would love to be able to do and let that motivate you to start taking action today. 

9. Do Take Action

Action is by far the most important thing when it comes to finding knee arthritis pain relief. 

There are ways to find short term pain relief with things that are done to you, also known as passive treatments. These typically include massage, chiropractors, pain pills, cortisone shots, PRP, stem cells, knee braces/compression sleeves, supplements, and pain relieving creams. 

Passive treatments can have a time and place but it is also important to include active treatments too. These typically include making changes to your diet, the right type of exercise, and regular physical activity. 

Relying on passive treatments can make you feel like you are constantly spinning your wheels. You can usually find temporary pain relief but it likely comes back again and again.

If you are looking for the first few steps you need to do to take action to find relief, the Arthritis Adventure Blueprint is calling your name. Hear from one of the current members below.

knee arthritis pain relief


With the right resources, it is possible to navigate knee arthritis pain and actually find ways to prevent the progression of symptoms. 

With knee arthritis pain, there are things that can get you closer to pain relief.

Here at Keep the Adventure Alive, my main mission is to help guide you through these steps so you can make adventure possible again- even with knee arthritis! 

Disclaimer: This post is for general informational purposes only. It should not be used to self-diagnose and it is not a substitute for a medical exam, cure, treatment, diagnosis, and prescription or recommendation. It does not create a doctor-patient relationship between Dr. Kuhn and you. You should not make any change in your health regimen or diet before first consulting a physician and obtaining a medical exam, diagnosis, and recommendation. Move Well Age Well, LLC and Dr. Alyssa Kuhn, PT, DPT are not liable or responsible for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis or any conclusions drawn, services or product you obtain through this post, video or site.