If you have arthritis in your knee, you may be wondering if physical therapy can help. While it’s true that PT can’t cure arthritis, research has shown that it can significantly reduce pain and improve function.
A 2014 study by Knoop et al. found that people with varying levels of knee osteoarthritis can benefit from supervised physical therapy. One proposed mechanism is significant quadriceps muscle weakness caused by joint pain and arthritis, which can lead to decreased joint stability. Lewek et al.’s 2014 research supports this finding, showing that individuals with osteoarthritis have quadriceps muscle weakness but can significantly improve their strength through a guided exercise program. This is further supported by a systematic review and clinical guidelines published by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, which found good evidence supporting the use of quadriceps strengthening and other non-operative interventions for individuals with total knee arthritis.
It’s important to note that physical therapy may not completely eliminate pain or allow you to run again. However, it can help you feel better and move better until you decide if a total knee replacement is right for you. Don’t assume that you’re destined to be in pain until surgery – give PT a try!
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee (non-arthroplasty). Rosemont, IL: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons; 2008
Lewek MD, Rudolph KS, Snyder-Mackler L: Quadriceps femoris muscle weakness and activation failure in patients with symptomatic knee osteoarthritis. J Orthop Res, 2004, 22: 110–115.
Knoop J, Dekker J, van der Leeden M, et al. : Is the severity of knee osteoarthritis on magnetic resonance imaging associated with outcome of exercise therapy? Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken), 2014, 66: 63–68.