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Practical Tips for Osteoarthritis of the Knee

Osteoarthritis of the knee (doctors call it “gon-arthritis”) is among the most common forms of arthritis and can lead  to years of pain, limitations and impairment. The following tips are particularly helpful in early and medium stages and can help reduce pain and swelling. In future issues of ARTHRITIS INFO we’ll talk more and in greater detail about treating knee osteoarthritis.

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1. Select Your Shoes Carefully

With osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee, choose the correct type of shoes carefully.
Here are a few tips:

  • Avoid heels that are too high or too hard 
  • Don’t wear sandals
  • Choose shoes with low heels
Choose shoes that lace up and provide your feet with firm support.



2. Avoid Walking Uphill or Downhill

Whenever possible, avoid walking up or down steep inclines or hills if you have osteoarthritis of the knee. Both put considerable strain on the knee. Walk on flat terrain, instead, whenever possible.



3. Avoid Uneven Terrain

It is equally important to avoid uneven or very soft terrain. Walk on sidewalks rather than in the grass. Choose well-worn paths. Cobblestone roads, which unfortunately can be found in some old European cities, can be particularly unfavorable for the knees.



4. It's Healthier to Ride a Bicycle

Cycling does not put as much stress on the knee joints as walking. This is only true, however, if you ride slowly and avoid hilly terrain. It is also necessary to keep the appropriate distance and to always ride safely. If you have gears, always use a lower gear, which does not require you to use a lot of strength. This in turn helps you to avoid situations in which you have to brake suddenly. In addition, we recommend to adjust the seat to the highest possible level. This also helps to relieve pressure, particularly on the kneecap (patella).



5. Always Use Elevators

Every stair step puts strain on the knee. If you can use an elevator instead of taking the stairs, always take the elevator, even if you travel just one floor or if it means waiting a few minutes. With osteoarthritis of the knee, avoid stairs whenever possible.



6. Use the Handrail

If an elevator is not available and you have to use the stairs, you can minimize joint strain by:

  • Climbing the stairs very slowly
  • Using the handrail to support yourself as much as possible
  • With severe osteoarthritis, allowing yourself plenty of time.
Put your healthy foot forward first, followed by the weaker limb. Do not hesitate to follow these rules. Keep in mind that they will help your knee joints to feel better.



7. Do not Carry Heavy Objects

Because your knees are your biggest weight-bearing joints, every extra pound you carry increases the stress on them. Try to make sure that you do not have to carry any heavy objects or, if necessary, only very rarely. Your family will surely be glad to help you. You can also try to find someone in your neighborhood or church to help when needed.



8. Avoid Standing for Long Periods of Time

Many people are often on their feet for many hours at a time without a break. This puts your knees under considerable strain, even if you do not feel it directly at that moment. Therefore try to follow this rule: “Never be on your feet longer than one hour at a time.” Give yourself a break after every hour, even if only for 5 or 10 minutes. This gives you renewed strength and protects your knees.



9. Stretch Your Legs While Seated

When seated, gently stretch your legs and change their position frequently. Avoid folding your legs under your chair, as many people do when sitting at a desk. This is particularly important for those who have osteoarthritis in  the anterior (patellar) part of the knee joint.



10. Support Yourself with Both Hands

Avoid putting pressure on the flexed knee with osteoarthritis. When rising from a chair or bed, push down forcefully with both hands to minimize stress on the knees. You might do this instinctively to avoid pain, but this technique is also important when your knees don’t hurt to prevent further damage.



11. Avoid Low Seats

Choosing the correct furniture is also important. Avoid sitting on low chairs. To really take the load off  your knees, choose chairs with a  higher seat, preferably one with armrests.



12. Do not Kneel

Kneeling, whether at home, at work, or in church, concentrates pressure directly on your knees and should be avoided whenever possible. Many activities that require kneeling can usually be accomplished using a low stool or chair instead.

Note: In summary, one basic rule for osteoarthritis is: “Movement yes – strain no.” More information on osteoarthritis of the knee will follow in a future issue of ARTHRITIS INFO. Causes and types of therapy will then be discussed in more detail.



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