Overweight, a lack of exercise and a poor diet, for example, are key risk factors for osteoarthritis of the knee. Excessive strain can also cause osteoarthritis. That’s why it’s important to be gentle on your joints and to compensate for repetitive movements with variety. Find out in this article which exercises can help.

Constant, repetitive movements subject the body’s structures to strain. Standing, sitting or kneeling for extended periods is exhausting ‒ especially for the knees. Our largest joint is able to withstand a lot of pressure but it also needs breaks to recover. If it has to endure too much for a long time, the cartilage will be damaged. In many cases, the diagnosis will then be: osteoarthritis of the knee.

What causes excessive strain on the knee?

At work, this can include awkward, repetitive joint strain which the body is subjected to for several hours each day over many years, like laying tiles or parquet, for example. Tough physical labor at a construction site or in agriculture can also advance the development of osteoarthritis. The same applies to standing and lifting a lot when working in sales.

And what about sports? Exercise in general is very beneficial ‒ essential actually in cases of osteoarthritis of the knee. Some activities, however, subject the cartilage and knee joints to a lot of strain. “No sports with quick changes of direction can be recommended,” Joshua Schirm, physiotherapist, remarks. This includes football, handball, hockey and basketball. With team sports, the opponent’s impact must also be considered: fouls, collisions and falls increase the risk of injury ‒ and therefore the risk of subsequent osteoarthritis.

This is based on the fact that the trigger for osteoarthritis of the knee is often an injury that happened 10 to 15 years earlier and didn’t heal fully. This includes meniscus damage and torn cruciate ligaments, for example. Sometimes, even a microtrauma that was caused during a collision and damaged the cartilage is enough.

This means that osteoarthritis of the knee is frequently diagnosed also in active or former competitive athletes, not only in certain occupational groups.

How do you identify osteoarthritis of the knee?

The problem is: warning signs of osteoarthritis of the knee are often not noticed at first. Those affected only experience pain in the advanced stage of the condition. The knees make cracking and creaking sounds, taking the stairs is difficult and hurts, as does lifting heavy objects. Add to the mix start-up pain, i.e. pain during the first steps after extended periods of rest that then subsides again. In athletes, the joint can swell after excessive training.

Self-test: Do I suffer from osteoarthritis of the knee? 

With our osteoarthritis self-test, you can gain a better understanding of your knee pain and determine your individual risk of osteoarthritis. Afterwards, a visit to your physician can give you a reliable diagnosis.

How can knee strain be counteracted?

Joshua Schirm, physiotherapist, recommends taking regular breaks. During the workday, it’s variety that makes the difference: change your sitting position every now and then, stretch and do some breathing exercises. You can also go for a walk during your lunch break.

Short exercises can alleviate pain during everyday activities and mobilize the knee: just leave your leg dangling from a table for about a minute when you’re sitting down. That relieves the knee and stretches the joint capsule, which alleviates pain. Or stretch both knees to their maximum ten times when you’re sitting. This mobilizes the joints and improves mobility.

After being subjected to strain, your joints need rest.

Joshua Schirm

Which type of movements are beneficial for the knee?

Flowing movements where the joint is mobilized gently are beneficial for the knee. Cycling in low gears, swimming, going for a walk, or tai chi and yoga are perfect for osteoarthritis of the knee. Athletes are recommended to listen to their bodies, not to overdo the strain and to train the whole body.


Whether during exercise or everyday activities: our supports can be a huge help. They are comfortable to wear, support the joints and provide the knee with stability and security during movement.


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