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Walking Tips for Knee OA

27th July 2022

Exercising to help with your knee pain may feel counterintuitive, and in the first instance can feel like it is causing you more pain. However, in the long-term, walking can help with your OA symptoms and help to strengthen the muscles around your joint and increase stability.

Exercise has been recommended for those with wear-and-tear joint arthritis by NICE Guidelines.

Walking is easy, accessible, affordable, and can help you connect to nature, which has been proven to help with mental health. If you are going to exercise, including walking, it is important to not overdo it and follow some other helpful tips to ensure you will feel the benefits.

Warm Up

The first thing to do before walking is to activate your leg muscles. 5-10 minutes of range-of-motion exercises can prepare your muscles for action and encourage healthy blood circulation. Furthermore, you activate the secretion of synovial liquid, which lubricates the knee joint. Another way to stimulate synovial fluid lubrication is a warm shower.

Type of Shoes

Wearing the right shoes is essential for proper leg coordination and low impact on landing. Flat and flexible shoes are the best option for letting your feet move naturally. This is vital to alleviating the pressure on the toes and the cartilage in between them. It is also necessary for shoes to provide a good arch. The soles must be flexible to create a cushion effect and absorb shock upon landing.

Make sure that the shoes you settle on work well for you. Do not be self-conscious and take the time to walk around in the shoes to make sure they are comfortable and will do the job for you. Remember, these are an investment in your physical wellbeing and should be bought to last, as the best shoes for Osteoarthritis can make a world of difference to your mobility.

Check out our blog on footwear tips for knee OA.

Footwear for OA

Surface

The surface you walk can affect how much stress you put on your knees. Uneven surfaces can increase your risk of slipping and falling, which could aggravate your knee pain or cause injury.

Hiking poles or canes can be used to assist you while walking and could improve your confidence.

Posture

Problems with posture could be one of the factors that worsen knee pain, even after a short amount of walking. For example, many people put a lot of force through their heel strike, which sends intense shockwaves through the leg and therefore more pressure through the joint. Instead, you can strike your heel gently and roll onto the ball of the foot to soften this impact. It is also necessary to engage your core as much as possible. This involves standing up tall as if the crown of your head is pulled up slightly. Your shoulders must be relaxed and retracted slightly backwards instead of hunched forward. Finally, don’t forget to let your arms swing naturally to maintain balance.

Duration

There are several factors to consider in regards to how long you should be walking per day.

If you have been inactive for a long time due to surgery or injury, it is in your best interest to start easy at moderate speed (2.5-3.5 mph) for 10-15 minutes and gradually increase to 30 minutes. Make sure the speed change is gradual throughout the exercise.

Research suggests that taking 6000 steps per day is optimum for reaping the benefits of walking. You can use a phone app or smart watch to track the number of your steps (1).

Walking for OA

Pain Level vs. Walking

One of the biggest dilemmas for those suffering with knee OA, is whether or not to walk whilst in pain. To gain maximum benefit from walking, you need to choose a time of the day when your knees feel strong enough to support you and is bearable. For most, morning is not ideal since the joint feels stiffy and painful. In that case, you might opt for an afternoon stroll.

Even if you experience mild pain beforehand, applying the techniques above can help to reduce your symptoms. You can also apply cold packs to the knee to relax muscles and prevent inflammation afterwards.

On the other hand, if you experience throbbing and sharp pain, you must seek advice from your doctor before establishing your walking routine.

  • White, Daniel K., et al. "Daily walking and the risk of incident functional limitation in knee osteoarthritis: an observational study." Arthritis care & research 66.9 (2014): 1328-1336.

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