Osteoarthritis Knee Pain Walking

Change the Way You Walk to Ease Knee Pain with Osteoarthritis

Overloaded or unevenly loaded knee joints can cause osteoarthritis (OA), or cause your OA to get worse. Learning how to walk differently may be able to correct the loading problem and reduce your knee pain. This approach is being studied in people with medial, or inner, compartment OA — which is 10 times more common than other forms of knee OA.

“The medial knee compartment bears a much higher load than the lateral [outside] compartment,” says Pete Shull, PhD, assistant professor in the School of Mechanical Engineering at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in Shanghai, China. “That’s just the way our bodies are structured. The inside knee compartment experiences loading [or force] that’s two to three times higher than the outside.”

Researchers are looking for ways to shift some of the medial compartment’s load to the lateral one. “The lateral compartment almost always has healthy cartilage,” says Shull.  “The compartments are like brake pads on a bike, unevenly worn. So by changing the way someone walks, we can get the cartilage in the compartments to wear more evenly.”

What the Studies Show

In a 2011 study published in the Journal of Biomechanics, Shull and his colleagues retrained nine healthy people without osteoarthritis to shift their gait.

They had the participants walk on a treadmill while wearing equipment that measured the forces on the knee and gave feedback on how they were walking. With the feedback, participants were able to learn how to shift weight to different parts of the knee. The pressure on the medial compartment was reduced by 20%. A knee brace can reduce pressure by 10–15% and foot orthotics can reduce pressure by 5–10%.

Once Shull and his colleagues established that the technology could help healthy people learn new walking patterns, they decided to test it on people with symptomatic knee osteoarthritis.

The 2013 study published in the Journal of Orthopaedic Research, looked at 10 people with medial compartment knee OA and self-reported pain. They participated in weekly gait retraining sessions for six weeks. Their scores for pain and function improved by 29% and 32%, respectively.

Researchers at University of British Columbia and University of Melbourne have also been studying how changes in gait may lessen knee burden. In a 2012 study published in Arthritis Care and Research, they taught 22 participants with knee OA to shift their trunks toward their damaged kneeAlthough the greater the lean, the less pressure on the inner joint, participants had a tough time learning the new walk and initially at least, found no pain reduction.

Similarly, a 2013 study by the same group, which examined the effects of altering foot angles in 22 people with knee OA, showed no immediate change in knee pain or other symptoms.

What You Can Do Now

Shull and colleagues at Stanford University in California are working to develop wearable equipment to enable real-time feedback about gait patterns that can be used in clinics.

For now, patients can get movement retraining by working with a physical therapist, says orthopedic surgeon Jason Dragoo, MD, associate professor in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Stanford, who has been working with Shull and others on gait retraining research. “The physical therapist can help them to walk symmetrically and to spend equal time on both legs, making sure that the trunk is over the legs and not swaying side to side. When you limp, you lose efficiency and that can make knee pain worse.”

What’s most important is to practice the new movement, says Dr. Dragoo: “Once the physical therapist teaches you how to walk differently, you have to be committed to watching the way you walk.”


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14 thoughts on “Change the Way You Walk to Ease Knee Pain with Osteoarthritis

  1. Very interested in improving gait .Ihave recently had a knee op which had helped a lot.I have arthritis in my other knee ,but have done the exercise given by my physio and find that my walking is much improved.
    I have not been shown how to walk however.

  2. The information I am reading is very formative, I have had right knee surgery involving ACL reconstructive surgery, arthroscopy and eventually a TKA, as of recent I have had a left knee surgery involving an arthroscopy and eventually a TKA. I am having difficulty in drawing a conclusion that the left knee symptoms and the right knee complications are directly related and should be accepted in any entitlements accepted for the right knee entitlements

  3. Please further information regarding exercises and therapy to improve walking and gait to increase weight on lateral muscles of knees.
    I am a 72 year old woman with osteoarthritis in both knees, as well as two knee replacements. I can walk but still need to improve my balance.
    My current physical therapists are not familiar with this therapy and I’d like to share it with them.
    Thanks in advance.

  4. I was diagnosed with OA. & my life has changed drastically. I read your article & have more knowledge on what I have & what to expect. Thank you immensely!

  5. I suffer from OA and have had shots to relieve the pain. The pain is much better but the shots only last for so long.

  6. Can you show correct walking form by way of a video
    re : correct gait for us with knee replacements ?
    I just read change walking OA
    I had rt knee replacement in 2015 and lt knee replacement in 2015
    I use orthotics -correct walking video may help me or others

  7. Learn to walk like cat Bugler or ninja.
    I’M 65 injured my knees in my teens, football, wrestling, and motorcycles. My ortho Dr said I couldn’t pick a better three.
    Any how learned to walk on the balls of my feet, it takes shorter steps, using my ankles and calfs as shock absorbers.
    I’ve done this for years, makes for strong calfs.
    So if you’re ankles are good you might try this.
    Anything is worth a try.

  8. A little knee pain can lead to a major distress if it is not taken care rightly. Excess burden on a child’s shoulder bow him towards the ground, in the same way a knee acts, excesses load and pressure can leave a bad effect on your knees, as Osteoarthritis. Thanks for sharing this informative piece of blog with us.

  9. The first time I heard about Glucosamine and chondritin was when an American bought some for an elderly friend who quite rapidly had pain (hips I seem to remember). She started taking this and the results were rapid and astonishing. Doctors who poopoo this prevent their patients from possible pain relief and greater mobility. My fingers were cracking, I started taking the above and in a couple of months this had stopped!

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