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Get Moving to Manage & Prevent Arthritis

By Susan Hardin Rocchini, PT, DPT

Arthritis affects about one in four adults or more than 54 million men and women.    Arthritis is defined as inflammation of joints, and osteoarthritis is the most prevalent type of arthritis. This type of arthritis is characterized by deterioration of a joint, with the hip and knee being the most common joints affected. Osteoarthritis can be further defined by inflammation and degradation of the cartilage on bones, which can be quite painful. The good news is that you can manage the pain and dysfunction associated with arthritis, and research has shown that the actions you take can help minimize disability related to the condition. Arthritis is typically diagnosed through medical imaging and discussion of one’s symptoms.  Typical symptoms can be the following:

  • Sharp, shooting pain or dull, achy pain in the region, both during or following an activity
  • Stiffness of the joint, which is worse after sleeping or sitting for an extended period
  • Swelling of the joint
  • Crunchiness and/or popping of a joint with movement
  • Difficulty with everyday activities such as walking and stair climbing

Osteoarthritis of a joint can cause surrounding muscle weakness, loss of motion and balance problems if a lower extremity joint is affected, such as the knee or hip joint.  At first thought, one might thing that exercise could worsen the condition, but in reality, exercise can reduce arthritis-related pain and improve function, when done appropriately. In fact, research has shown that activities such as walking, biking and swimming are very beneficial to your joints. Additionally, walking 6,000 steps a day or about 1 hour of walking has been shown to potentially help knee arthritis.  More research is needed regarding this specific number, but an observational study published in Arthritis Care & Research in 2014 demonstrated that functional limitations were reduced by 16 to 18% among those who walked 6,000 steps per day. Also, it is important to note that exercise and activity must be gradually implemented and incrementally increased, especially in someone who has arthritis and/or who has been sedentary.

Community-based physical activity programs can be beneficial in helping one manage exercise and symptoms related to arthritis.  According to the American College of Sports Medicine, all adults, including those with arthritis, should aim for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic exercise and weight or resistance training two to three times per week.  For example, to meet the aerobic guidelines, you could set a goal of walking briskly for 30 minutes, 5 times per week or breaking up the 30 minutes into several 10 minute sessions within the day. Arthritis may be prevented or limited by maintaining strong muscles around a joint and flexibility of muscles around a joint, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and weight, and moving with good body mechanics.

You physical therapist can help you manage the symptoms of arthritis by providing tips to reduce the pain, improve muscle strength and mobility around the affected joint, and improve performance of functional activities such as walking, stair climbing and sitting and standing from a chair. In severe cases, surgery might be recommended.

Need help getting started?  Join us each Monday at 9:30 a.m. at our Lakeview clinic at 2869 N. Lincoln Avenue for Walk with Ease, PhysioPartners’ community-based and free walking program developed by the Arthritis Foundation to help you get moving and feel better.  Sign up for this free program by calling (773) 665-9950 or emailing


Physiopartners will be hosting team walks beginning Monday July 9th at 9:30 am. Sign up today!