After being diagnosed with knee arthritis, many people ask their doctors what they can do at home to stop knee osteoarthritis from getting worse. While there is no quick fix, a few lifestyle changes can help lessen pain and potentially slow down the progression of arthritis.

A Whole Foods, Plant-based, Anti-inflammatory Diet

Eating a fiber-rich diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help:

  • Reduce inflammation in the body1,2 which can cause or aggravate joint pain
  • Shed pounds, often without having to eat less

Even without an anti-inflammatory diet, losing excess weight can reduce inflammation. Research suggests fat cells promote inflammation in the body.3

See An Anti-Inflammatory Diet for Arthritis

Footwear with Low Heels

Wearing low-heeled shoes is recommended. Shoes with high heels may contribute to osteoarthritis pain.4,5 High heels change the biomechanics of standing and walking, putting more pressure on the knee joint. The risk associated with high heels is increased even further if the person is overweight.5

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Shoe Inserts

Limited research suggests using orthotic shoe inserts may take pressure off the knee and reduce knee pain.6 For example, knee osteoarthritis can be aggravated by over- or under-pronation (foot pronation is the tendency to rotate the foot inward and downward). Orthotics may help by re-distributing weight in the foot.

In This Article:

Regular Exercise

An exercise program can increase the strength and flexibility of the muscles surrounding the knee. Exercise also helps increase the knee’s range of motion, reduce additional cartilage loss, and improve pain and swelling.

See Knee Exercises for Arthritis

An exercise program should begin slowly. Initial workouts may be short—just 20 minutes or so—and not too challenging. Over weeks and months, the workouts may increase in intensity. If knee pain is moderate to severe, low-impact workouts, such as swimming, water aerobics, or yoga, are recommended.

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Adjusting Workouts and Day-to-Day Activities

While exercise is important to treating knee osteoarthritis, certain physical activities will aggravate the knee joint. These activities should be avoided and substituted with exercises that exert less force on the knee joint.

For example:

  • People who do high-impact activities, such as jogging and playing soccer, may want to try yoga, cycling, or swimming.
  • Backyard gardeners may want to use raised planters, which require less kneeling and squatting.

If the treatment options described in this article do not adequately reduce knee arthritis symptoms, then a health care provider may recommend considering medications, therapeutic injections, or surgery.

See Knee Osteoarthritis Treatment

References

  • 1.Felson DT et al. Dietary intake of fiber and risk of knee osteoarthritis in two US prospective cohorts. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, 2017 May. DOI: 10.1136/annrheumdis-2016-21810
  • 2.Dai Z, Lu N, Niu J, Felson DT, Zhang Y. Dietary Fiber Intake in Relation to Knee Pain Trajectory. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2017;69(9):1331–1339. doi:10.1002/acr.23158
  • 3.Sartori-Cintra AR, Aikawa P, Cintra DE. Obesity versus osteoarthritis: beyond the mechanical overload. Einstein (Sao Paulo). 2014;12(3):374–379. doi:10.1590/S1679-45082014RB2912
  • 4.Barkema DD, Derrick TR, Martin PE. Heel height affects lower extremity frontal plane joint moments during walking. Gait Posture. 2012 Mar;35(3):483-8. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2011.11.013. Epub 2011 Dec 12. PubMed PMID: 22169388.
  • 5.Titchenal MR, Asay JL, Favre J, Andriacchi TP, Chu CR. Effects of high heel wear and increased weight on the knee during walking. J Orthop Res. 2015 Mar;33(3):405-11. doi: 10.1002/jor.22775. Epub 2014 Dec 22. PubMed PMID: 25532875; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4346490.
  • 6.Tan JM, Menz HB, Crossley KM, et al. The efficacy of foot orthoses in individuals with patellofemoral osteoarthritis: a randomised feasibility trial. Pilot Feasibility Study. 2019;5:90. Published 2019 Jul 11. doi:10.1186/s40814-019-0469-7
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