Become Pain Free Now

Physical Therapy for Osteoarthritis – Information, Exercises, and More

Osteoarthritis affects over 32.5 million adults in the United States alone and is the leading cause of disability in most adults.  

The aching, swelling, and stiffness caused by osteoarthritis can be debilitating. 

Although there is no known cure for osteoarthritis, there are treatments available to help manage the symptoms, and therapies to help relieve the pain.

In this guide, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about osteoarthritis, including:

  • Symptoms
  • Exercises; and
  • Treatments 

What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It is a disease of the joints.

Each of your bones has cartilage at the end that covers, cushions, and protects them. This disease causes the cartilage to wear down which impacts both the related joint and the bone.

Osteoarthritis can affect any joint in your body.

There are two classifications of osteoarthritis:


  1. Primary Osteoarthritis
  2. Secondary Osteoarthritis 

Unfortunately, osteoarthritis can never be reversed, but there are treatments to help reduce the symptoms. 

What Causes Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is most commonly found in the:

  • Hands
  • Fingers
  • Neck 
  • Hips
  • Knees
  • Feet

But what causes osteoarthritis? 

Osteoarthritis is caused by the breakdown of cartilage between joints. This can happen for several reasons, including: 

  • Aging — especially in adults over 70 and women after menopause
  • Genetics
  • Gender — women are more likely to have osteoarthritis than men after the age of 55
  • Trauma
  • Excess bodyweight

Causes of Primary Osteoarthritis

Primary osteoarthritis is the most common type of osteoarthritis. 

Known as the “wear and tear” disease, primary osteoarthritis is most commonly caused by aging.

As we age, the water content of the cartilage protecting our bones increases, and the protein in the cartilage degenerates. 

Cartilage helps prevent friction between the joints in our bodies As it deteriorates, bones rub against one another causing friction. This friction results in pain, inflammation, and can affect the entire joint.

Causes of Secondary Osteoarthritis

Secondary Osteoarthritis is typically caused by a pre-existing joint abnormality because of:

Osteoarthritis Symptoms

Osteoarthritis symptoms often appear slowly and worsen over time.

Some people who experience osteoarthritis experience very few symptoms only to discover they have osteoarthritis through X-rays.  

Others have symptoms that are debilitating. 

The symptoms may come and go — in fact, it isn’t uncommon for people with osteoarthritis to feel no pain for months, and then suddenly symptoms reappear.

Some of the most common signs and symptoms include:

  • Swelling
  • Loss of flexibility
  • Stiffness — commonly when rising after extended periods of sitting or lying down
  • Pain — that seems to worsen more later in the day
  • Bone spurs

Osteoarthritis symptoms vary based on the location of the disease in your body. 

Let’s look at symptoms from two of the most common types of osteoarthritis: 

Symptoms of Knee Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis commonly occurs in the knees. It is estimated that 10% of men 60 years and older have osteoarthritis in the knees. 

Osteoarthritis affects three areas of the knee:


  1. Medial
  2. Lateral; and 
  3. Patellofemoral joint

Symptoms include: 

  • Pain in the knees that worsens throughout the day or with activity
  • Warmth around the joint area
  • Swelling
  • “Cracking” sound when moving the joint
  • Stiffness
  • Decreased range of motion 

Hip Osteoarthritis Symptoms

Because the hip joints are some of the body’s largest weight-bearing joints, they are highly susceptible to osteoarthritis.

Hip osteoarthritis may show symptoms like: 

  • Inability to move hip joints to do everyday activities, like putting on shoes
  • Pain in the thighs and buttocks that becomes worse during weight-bearing activities
  • Flare-ups of stiffness after long periods of sitting
  • Limping while walking
  • Increased pain during cold or rainy weather
  • Locking of the hip joint

Osteoarthritis Treatment

There are no known cures for osteoarthritis, but there are several ways to manage the symptoms. These include: 

  • Exercise — increasing physical activity whether or land or in water 
  • Steroid injections
  • Weight loss (if overweight) 
  • Healthy eating — to help manage cholesterol levels or diabetes
  • Physical therapy 
  • Pain Medications — acetaminophen, NSAIDS, opioids 

Your physician may suggest you use a few of these treatments together to minimize osteoarthritis symptoms. 

Knee Osteoarthritis Treatment

For osteoarthritis in the knee, some of the best treatments are:

Hip Osteoarthritis Treatment

Depending on the severity of hip osteoarthritis, physical therapy is one of the best treatment options. 

Other treatment options include: 

  • Low impact exercise
  • Weight loss
  • NSAID’s or pain medications
  • Using a cane while walking

Osteoarthritis Physical Therapy – Will PT Help?

One of the best ways to improve your osteoarthritis symptoms is through physical therapy. 

If you’ve been diagnosed with the disease, there are a number of manual therapies your physical therapist can perform to help manage your symptoms. 

Not only can a physical therapist provide therapies and rehab assistance if surgery is necessary, but they can teach you the best exercises to manage your symptoms. 

Best Osteoarthritis Exercises

If you’re looking to overcome osteoarthritis symptoms, exercising is one of the best things you can do for your body. 

Endurance Exercises

Studies have shown that endurance exercises like walking, aquatic exercises, or yoga significantly reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis by controlling weight and building strength in the muscles around your joints. 

Range-of-Motion Exercises

Range-of-motion involves being able to move your joints the way they were made to move. 

Osteoarthritis has a negative effect on these movements. Range-of-motion exercises help maintain the flexibility in joints by using gentle movements and stretches.

How In Motion O.C. Can Help With Osteoarthritis

Our team at Motion on a mission to give hope, healing, confidence, and joy to every one of our patients. 

As the number one Physical Therapist in the country according to Yelp and Google, we strive to maintain an atmosphere that makes every patient feel comfortable. 

We’ve helped hundreds of people dealing with osteoarthritis and understand the importance of living life to the fullest, not living a life full of pain. 

*This information about physical therapy for Osteaoarthritis was reviewed by Dr Natalie Thomas, PT, DPT. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us here.

In Motion O.C.