Have you been told that you are bone on bone in your knee? That you should not perform certain activities anymore, running, squatting? These are common reports my patients tell me and often they are not true. 

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is the inflammation and degeneration of joints (osteo= bone, artho= joint, itis=inflammation). Knee osteoarthritis is diagnosed based on two factors:

  1. Imaging, which is better visualized with an X-ray, but sometimes MRI’s are used. This shows decreased space between the joint and bone on bone is when you have a significant loss in space in the joint.
  2. How you feel — These signs typically show up slowly over time and typically not all at once which leads people to not notice.
    1. People with osteoarthritis typically feel stiffer in the morning time or after sitting for a while. 
    2. Pain after activities such as walking, running, sports; often with swelling that follows.
    3. Joint stiffness and pain.
    4. Feelings of popping, clicking, and cracking in the knee joint

When you are diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis, an individualized treatment plan should be created for your specific needs and goals. Treatment plans often will consist of a combination of the following most effective physical therapy treatments.

Range of motion

Often the decreased space in the knee results in faulty knee movement which can lead to more wear and tear on the knee and progressive worsening of symptoms. This can be slowed down and relieved through a throughout plan including stretching and joint mobilization performed by a therapist and self-care strategies to be performed by the patient. 


Strengthening the muscles surrounding your knee including your ankle, hip and core can help reduce the stress to the joint. The muscles in the ankle, hip, and core provide stability to the knee joint strengthening these muscles helps to balance the amount of stress the knee experiences. Exercises for muscles that cross the knee joint such as the quadriceps and hamstrings are important because they have an immediate effect on the function and range of motion of the joint.

Manual therapy

Physical therapists use a combination of techniques to help manage knee osteoarthritis including:

  • Massage: helps to relieve muscle soreness and joint swelling. This is performed with a variety of techniques and instruments depending on the presentation of the patient.
  • Joint mobilization: helps to relieve the stiffness of the joints, reduce swelling and pain.
  • Cupping therapy helps to decompress the tissues allowing the moving of swelling out of the joint and good proteins into the joint to promote healing.
  • Stretching therapy: helps to improve the flexibility of the knee joint and relieve reports of stiffness.


Often a combination of therapeutic modalities is the most effective for the treatment of knee osteoarthritis. One of the most important modalities for the management of this condition is the use of ice and compression, such as the PowerPlay unit used at TORQ Physical Therapy.

Taping and bracing

Taping can be an effective way to provide additional support, lift tissues to reduce swelling and pain for people with knee osteoarthritis. This technique is unique because Physical Therapists can modify the placement and stretch of the tape as the patient progresses in their care. Bracing is often used in more severe cases and works to help unload different parts of the knee.

As mentioned before, an individualized program tailored to your needs is the best approach in treating knee osteoarthritis. If you’re concerned about your pain or diagnosis, talk to your Orthopedic and Doctor of Physical Therapy today!