Knee Osteoarthritis: Common Misconceptions with Therapeutic Exercise – Matthew Osborn AEP

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease where the cartilage of the bones wears down as a result of years of loading on the joint.  A common site for osteoarthritis is in the knee, and weight bearing activities such as walking, running, climbing upstairs are impacted and we may avoid these activities.   As we avoid these activities muscle wasting can occur so the joint may become weak and unstable and may lead to surgical interventions.

Non-surgical interventions, such as exercise-based therapy, are now showing to be the optimal ways to manage this condition. However, despite the evidence supporting this, many patients opt for surgery such as a total knee replacement to manage their pain and function. A study by Bunzli et al. (2019)   explained that in Australia, 50% of people with knee OA do not participate in exercise interventions and are more likely to be referred for surgical options.1  The reason behind this is the common misconceptions that people may have regarding exercise, which becomes a key barrier for participating in physical activity.   Such beliefs include that because their knee OA is  “bone on bone” or it is “wear and tear” of the joint  and that loading the knee can further damage and deteriorate the cartilage and increase pain.

Despite the belief that exercise may harm the knee joint cartilage, therapeutic exercise assists in relieving pain and does not harm knee cartilage nor does it trigger inflammation in the joint2. Aerobic and strengthening exercises have proven to be beneficial in improving strength, range of motion and reducing disability in patients with knee osteoarthritis.  In addition, completing exercise can improve articular cartilage health, which can improve long term pain and function. For those who have this condition, it is encouraged to engage in exercise and physical activity as not only does it improve with knee health but prevents a whole range of other diseases in the long term.  For more information, see the links below;


  1. Bunzli et al. 2019. Misconceptions and the acceptance of evidence-based nonsurgical interventions for knee osteoarthritis. A qualitative study. Clinical Orthopaeidics and related research, 477 (9),1976-1983 DOI: 10.1097/CORR.0000000000000784
  2. Bricca et al. Infographic. 2019. Therapetuic exercise relieves pain and does not harm knee cartilage nor trigger inflammation. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 0, (0).