Walking may be the best way to deal with arthritis pain in the knees (knee osteoarthritis) and to slow its progression. Yes, rather than resting arthritic knees, the best treatment appears to be walking.
A study of individuals over the age of 50 found that walking for exercise prevented flare ups of arthritis knee pain from becoming persistent pain. This might be because consistent movement can help create muscle mass, strengthening ligaments around the joints that have osteoarthritis.
The study also found that walking for exercise is an effective way to slow the damage that occurs within the knee joint. Who would have guessed?
From Science Daily - Walking Towards Healthier Knees
A new study published in Arthritis & Rheumatology led by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine reveals that walking for exercise can reduce new frequent knee pain among people age 50 and older diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis. Additionally, findings from the study indicate that walking for exercise may be an effective treatment to slow the damage that occurs within the joint.
"Until this finding, there has been a lack of credible treatments that provide benefit for both limiting damage and pain in osteoarthritis," said Dr. Grace Hsiao-Wei Lo, assistant professor of immunology, allergy and rheumatology at Baylor, chief of rheumatology at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center and first author of the paper.
The researchers examined the results of the Osteoarthritis Initiative, a multiyear observational study where participants self-reported the amount of time and frequency they walked for exercise. Participants who reported 10 or more instances of exercise from the age of 50 years or later were classified as "walkers" and those who reported less were classified as "non-walkers."
Those who reported walking for exercise had 40% decreased odds of new frequent knee pain compared to non-walkers.
"These findings are particularly useful for people who have radiographic evidence of osteoarthritis but don't have pain every day in their knees," said Lo, who also is an investigator at the Center for Innovations in Quality, Effectiveness, and Safety at Baylor and the VA. "This study supports the possibility that walking for exercise can help to prevent the onset of daily knee pain. It might also slow down the worsening of damage inside the joint from osteoarthritis."
Lo said that walking for exercise has added health benefits such as improved cardiovascular health and decreased risk of obesity, diabetes and some cancers, the driving reasons for the Center for Disease Control recommendations on physical activity, first published in 2008 and updated in 2018. Walking for exercise is a free activity with minimal side effects, unlike medications, which often come with a substantial price tag and possibility of side effects.