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Managing Knee Pain

In physiotherapy, the focus is on promoting physical activity and exercise to manage knee pain. People with this condition often have low activity levels due to the changes they make in response to knee pain. However, it is important to maintain some level of activity. Here are some general activities that can be incorporated into daily life to ensure a higher level of physical activity: reducing sitting time, walking the dog, walking at a brisk pace, taking the stairs, gardening, incorporating exercises while watching TV, walking while on the phone, etc.

Engaging in physical activity at a moderate intensity is essential for achieving good health.

Here are some tips for increasing general physical activity:

  • Make small changes to your daily routine.

  • Avoid prolonged periods of inactivity throughout the day.

  • Perform physical activities within realistic timeframes.

  • Gradually increase the amount and/or intensity of physical activity.

  • Pace your activities, even on days when you experience pain.

  • Use timing to help pace your activity and ensure you don't overexert yourself.

  • Aim for sessions of at least 10 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise.

Barriers to exercise and physical activity can hinder a person's ability to be physically active. Some common barriers include:

1. Time: Many individuals feel they lack the time to incorporate exercise or physical activity into their daily routines. Finding creative ways to be more active during normal daily activities, such as taking short walks or engaging in physical activity while answering the phone, can be helpful.

2. Pain: It is common to experience an increase in pain during or after exercise. However, pain does not necessarily indicate further joint or muscle damage. People often mistakenly believe they need to completely stop exercising when they feel any pain, which can lead to loss of function and strength. Adjusting exercise intensity or modifying exercises can help manage pain effectively.

3. Low energy or fatigue: If you often feel tired and lethargic, exercise can actually boost your energy levels. Regular exercise can also improve sleep quality, reducing night time pain interruptions. By breaking the cycle of fatigue and inactivity, exercise can have a positive impact on your overall energy levels throughout the day.

4. Lack of enjoyment: Many individuals do not find exercise inherently enjoyable. However, there are various activities to choose from, and it's important to select the ones you dislike the least. Joining a group or exercising with a friend, listening to music or podcasts, and making exercise sessions more fun can help maintain motivation.

5. Caregiving responsibilities: Caregivers often prioritize the needs of others over their own, which can hinder their ability to engage in physical activity. It is crucial for caregivers to prioritize their own physical activity to preserve their physical and mental well-being, enabling them to better care for their loved ones.

6. Illness: Everyone experiences sickness from time to time, and it is acceptable to pause your exercise routine during these periods. However, it can be challenging to resume exercise after a break. When recovering from an illness, start with gentle exercises or physical activity and gradually work your way back to your previous levels. Physical activity can also help speed up the recovery process.

7. Holidays: Going on holiday disrupts daily routines, but with proper planning, it is possible to remain physically active. Researching and incorporating physically active and enjoyable activities into your holiday plans, such as walks, bike rides, or sightseeing, can help maintain activity levels. It's important to remember that taking a break from the routine is acceptable, but returning to normal activity after the holiday is essential.

Here are some ways to overcome barriers to physical activity and exercise:

  • Reminders: Use sticky notes in visible areas or set reminders on your smartphone to prompt you to exercise, take the stairs, go for a walk, etc.

  • Rewards: Establish a reward system to stay motivated. For example, give yourself points for each day you exercise and collect them throughout the month. When you reach your target, reward yourself with something nice or take time to relax. Be careful not to reward yourself with time off from exercise.

  • Social support: Engage a support system to keep you motivated. Having a gym partner or someone who holds you accountable can be helpful. Remember, it takes a village to stay motivated and committed to physical activity.


PEAK Knee programme Centre for Health, Exercise and Sports Medicine, University of Melbourne

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