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Knee osteoarthritis is a gradual wearing away of cartilage cushioning the joint, which causes the bones to rub together, leading to pain, swelling, and joint stiffness. Some people with arthritis tend to avoid exercise if they’re in pain, or out of fear of worsening the cartilage loss. But exercise is actually a key part of physical therapy for arthritis. “We do find that when people start to get active under supervision, they start to have less pain,” says Dennis Nutini, a sports medicine physician and medical director of Spaulding Outpatient Center in Brighton.
He says that it’s important to get an individualized exercise plan from a clinician, because knee arthritis is highly variable.