5 Exercises to Relieve the Pain of an Arthritic Knee

Arthritis can begin for different reasons and once you have it, it’s something you will have to take care of for the rest of your life. Osteoarthritis, caused by the gradual wear and tear on your joints  is very common as you age. Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is an autoimmune condition without a known cause. As both affect the joints, it is very common to experience knee pain from either of these forms of arthritis.

Luckily, whether you have osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, there are several strategies to help your arthritic knee. First, be sure to wear supportive shoes to alleviate pressure while you walk. Your shoes should have orthotic level insoles with great arch support. Second, you can try treatments for arthritis like acupuncture and massage. Finally, you can try simple exercises to loosen the joints, strengthen the muscles, and increase mobility.

Why Should I Exercise an Arthritic Knee?

While it isn’t intuitive to exercise a knee that hurts from arthritis, it is actually helpful to strengthen the joints and loosen them. The more stiff they become, the more they will hurt and the less mobile your knee will become. You need to exercise to keep your joint’s range of motion. The movement will also reduce swelling in the knee.

Exercising your knees does not have to be strenuous, in fact, it should be low impact and gentle to avoid further pain and aggravation. Try doing your knee exercises every other day to let them rest in between. Here are some exercises to get you started:

Hamstring Stretch

As your hamstring supports your knee, keeping it flexible will help with knee pain. There are many different ways of stretching your hamstrings. Try this: lie on your back and stretch your leg up to the sky. You can use a towel to wrap around your foot to pull it closer. Hold for 20-30 seconds and switch to the other side.

Calf Stretch

In addition to your hamstrings, you should also take care of your calves. Tight calves can affect your Achilles and the knee. To do a simple calf stretch, place one leg behind while standing and bend your front knee. You can lean forward, using a wall to support you in the stretch. Repeat this to the other side. 


Swimming is a great form of exercise for anyone with arthritis. Moving in the water does not strain you in the way other workouts do as your body weight is fully supported. You can build up muscle and range of motion in a water exercise class. Look for one that is specifically tailored to easing arthritis as these are often done in warmer water that is more soothing to the joints.


A gentle beginner’s yoga class or yin yoga class can be great for arthritis. As yoga does not involve putting too much pressure on the joints, it is an ideal way of strengthening the body in a gentle way. Yoga also improves flexibility and balance, plus it’s fun!

What to Do If It Hurts While Exercising

If you experience sharp or severe pain while performing the exercises above, you should stop and consult a doctor for modifications. Some discomfort is normal, but it should remain mild and generally get better with time. You can use a heating pad and pain medication before exercise as is directed by a doctor. Afterward, to reduce swelling, you can apply an ice pack to the area. 

Chronic pain like arthritis can be frustrating to deal with on a daily basis, but rather than giving up, trying new forms of therapy and exercise can actually help you heal. Don’t push yourself, but we bet you’ll be surprised at how much you can accomplish in a matter of weeks! 

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