When you have osteoarthritis in your knee, it’s not just pain and stiffness you have to worry about. The knee’s weakness and instability also puts you at risk for losing your balance and falling, which can lead to serious injuries and health declines.
Researchers set out to examine what methods may help people with knee osteoarthritis improve their balance and decrease their risk of falls. A systematic review of 15 randomized controlled trials—which included 1482 patients with knee OA—found some clear solutions.1
The studies revealed 3 therapies that resulted in a significant decrease is fall risk:
Building up the muscles in your upper legs—such as the quads (front of thigh) or hamstrings (back of thigh)—can help stabilize and strengthen your legs in general and your damaged knee joint specifically. In studies, strength training has been shown to decrease pain and increase strength and function for those with arthritis.
Even though aerobic exercise is designed to increase your heart rate and get you moving, it can yield big benefits in helping you increase reflexes for better stability and strength. In addition, it can help you lose weight, which has been proven to help those with arthritis in weight-bearing joints like the knees.
If running is not an option for you because of knee pain, consider aerobic exercise options such as swimming or using an elliptical machine, or taking a type of aerobics or dance class that’s easier on the knees.
Even those with moderate to severe knee arthritis can usually do tai chi, because it’s very low impact. Tai chi involves moving through slow, deliberate motions usually done from a standing position. It can be done with a class or alone. A tai chi instructor may be helpful to demonstrate how to modify poses as needed because of limited range of motion.
- Physical therapies for improving balance and reducing falls risk in osteoarthritis of the knee: a systematic review. Age Ageing. 2015 Jan;44(1):16-24. doi: 10.1093/ageing/afu112. Epub 2014 Aug 22.