Going out for a walk should be as simple as putting one foot in front of the other… but for the thousands of people living with knee osteoarthritis, a gentle stroll can soon turn into an uphill struggle
#walkthismay has been the catchy and inspiring hashtag for the past four weeks of National Walking Month – an inclusive, nationwide campaign designed to encourage people of all ages and fitness levels to get out and walk for 20 minutes every day to improve physical and mental wellbeing but for thousands of people living with knee osteoarthritis a gentle stroll soon turn into an uphill struggle.
When asked about National Walking Month, Living Streets charity organisers said:
"We want a nation where walking is the natural choice for everyday local journeys and our mission is to achieve a better walking environment and inspire people to walk more.”
Who could argue with that sentiment?
Statistics show that walking is scientifically proven to make you feel better—according to the Living Streets charity, 71% of people said that levels of depression decreased after going out for a walk.
However, worryingly, new consumer data1 commissioned by Contura Orthopaedics Ltd. revealed that half (50%) of Brits said that joint and knee pain had prevented them from taking part in sport or physical activity of any kind over the past 12 months.
And, more than a third (36%) said the prospect of being offered surgery would deter them from seeking medical advice if they had a knee problem that was causing them regular discomfort (and thus preventing them from remaining active).
Around 8.5 million people in the UK2 suffer from OA, with knee osteoarthritis affecting one in every five people over 45 in England2. Current treatments are often unlikely to have a long-lasting effect, with an eventual high probability of invasive knee replacement surgery – so what's the alternative?
The good news is that in the last 12 months, Contura Orthopaedics Ltd. has launched Arthrosamid® to the UK market—a novel injectable treatment for knee osteoarthritis that provides an effective, safe, and minimally invasive treatment to alleviate pain associated with knee osteoarthritis (OA). For patients seeking pain management options, this is hope for a positive alternative to surgery and lives up to its promise of "getting you moving again."
As National Walking Month has come to and end, here are some top tips and a step-by-step guide to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward, whether preparing for or recovering from treatment or if you are still considering which pathway to take.
For people with knee osteoarthritis (OA), moderate exercise is good medicine. It eases joint pain, fights off fatigue, and helps patients feel better overall – and if people are preparing for surgery or other medical interventions and rehabilitation, it’s always advisable to be in the best shape possible.
Walking is an excellent way to achieve these fitness goals because you can do it anywhere, it’s free, and you don’t need any special equipment to get started.
Sadly, many people suffering from the debilitating effects of knee OA worry that a walk will put extra pressure on their joints and feel it may make the pain worse. However, it can have the opposite effect.
Walking sends more blood and nutrients to your knee joints, so if you take it slow and steady, you should start to feel the benefits – and, if you avoid exercise altogether, there's a real danger the pain of OA gets worse.
Walking can also:
- Help you sleep better
- Boost your energy
- Help your balance to prevent falls
- Ease stress and anxiety
- Protect your cartilage
- Keep a check on your heart health and other chronic conditions such as Type 2 diabetes
1. Get the go-ahead from your healthcare professional
Before beginning any new physical activity, including walking; try to consult with your GP or physio to double check that it's safe to start. They will be able to provide sound advice and build up a routine.
2. Call in the experts
If you’re new to exercise or have been sedentary for a while due to achy joints, why not enlist the expert help of a personal trainer? They should be able to develop a detailed walking plan for you to follow, along with stretches and strength moves, to protect your joints.
3. Choose the best route
You can walk around your neighbourhood (who hasn't found themselves doing that on a regular basis during 'lockdown'), town centre, park, or on the school run. Pick a well-lit, quiet, clear route and one that doesn't have too much traffic. Smooth surfaces may be safer than off-road or uneven trails if you’re new to exercise and don't be afraid to pick up the pace as you start to feel fitter.
4. Make sure these boots are made for walking!
Walking shoes should be flexible but must also be able to support your feet – and above all, they must be comfortable (a nasty blister can stop you in your tracks). And looking after your legs doesn’t just stop at your ankle! Choose loose fitting trousers and good quality, breathable socks (maybe treat yourself to a pair made from Merino wool—less itchy than traditional wool and manages sweat and moisture much more effectively than polyester). Remember: when you shop for shoes, go in the afternoon or evening, because your feet expand later in the day.
5. Don’t be afraid of the dark
When walking outdoors, also wear light- or bright-coloured clothes or a reflective vest so drivers can easily see you. Also, check the forecast! Wear layers so you can take off an extra shirt if you get too warm, which can happen even on cool days.
6. Baby steps. Start small and build up gradually
Trying to do too much too soon can make joint pain worse. Haven't exercised in a while? Start with a 10-minute stroll. Even short walks will help your bones and muscles. Then add a few minutes to each walk. The goal is to work your way up to 30 minutes, five days a week. And you don't need to do it all at once. For example, three 10-minute strolls count as a half hour of walking.
7. Measure your walks in steps instead of time
Set a goal to walk 6,000 steps or more each day. If you’re not there now, walk a little more each time to work up to 6,000 steps. Before you know it, you'll be hitting the ultimate 10k a day!
8. Warm up well
Setting up simple exercises before going on a stroll can get your muscles, heart, and lungs ready. It also boosts the flow of synovial fluid, the liquid that cushions your joints; it may help fend off pain during your walk and make injuries less likely.
To get going, do range-of-motion exercises or stroll at a slower pace for 5 to 10 minutes. At the end of your walk, slow your pace for 5 minutes to cool down.
9. Be aware of any nagging aches and pains
Knee OA pain can be relieved by making certain clever motions before and after your walk, such as:
- Plan on walking when you usually feel good. Are your joints stiff in the morning? Head out in the afternoon. If you take a pain reliever, go for a stroll when it kicks in.
- Take a warm shower or apply warm washcloths or a heating pad for half hour before your walk. The heat relaxes your joints and muscles.
- Give yourself a massage. Gently rub the muscles around your joints for 10 minutes before you walk; it will boost blood flow to the area.
- After exercise, ice your joints for up to 20 minutes to relieve any swelling.
10. Listen to your body
It's normal to feel soreness when you start a new exercise programme. But if you have any sharp or unusual, that may be a sign that something's wrong. Don't try to push through to the finish. Instead, take a break. Another sign that you're overdoing it: if your joints still feel sore 2 hours after your walk, that might mean you need to scale back on the time or intensity of your workouts.
11. Don’t suffer in silence
Speak to your GP or consultant and ask whether you might be an eligible patient for Arthrosamid®, the non-invasive, hydrogel injections that can delay the need for knee surgery for many years and provide safe and sustained pain relief
12. Stay the course
Can’t seem to resist the call of the couch? Why not find yourself a 'walking buddy' or sign up for a local walking or rambling group. You'll meet others wanting to walk at the same pace as you. Walking with someone can be so encouraging and sociable too.
13. Closing National Walking Month
National Walking Month may have come to an end for another year, but hopefully, it has set many people on the right track.
Walking is a great and accessible way to exercise, particularly if you suffer from joint pain. You really can take it at your own pace, and it will keep you in shape and work your muscles whilst enjoying the great outdoors.
Arthrosamid® injections are now being introduced to patients through a network of leading orthopaedic clinicians across the UK, including Professor Paul Lee at 108 Harley Street, Mr Sean Curry at The London Orthopaedic Clinic, Professor Martyn Snow at the Birmingham Knee and Shoulder Clinic and Mr Sanj Anand at The OrthoTeam Centre, Manchester, as well as new clinics signing up to deliver the treatment in Ireland very soon.
1. Survey of 2,005 UK adults by Atomik Research commissioned by Contura International, September 2021
2. National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence - Centre for Clinical Practice Osteoarthritis Final Scope