The 2013 review published by the National Library of Medicine, it states that resistance training (i.e. strengthening) has been shown to be effective at decreasing pain and improving physical function.
The initiation, progression, and severity of knee osteoarthritis (OA) has been associated with decreased muscular strength and alterations in joint biomechanics. Chronic OA pain may lead to anxiety, depression, fear of movement, and poor psychological outlook. The fear of movement may prevent participation in exercise and social events which could lead to further physical and social isolation. Resistance exercise (RX) has been shown to be an effective intervention both for decreasing pain and for improving physical function and self-efficacy. RX may restore muscle strength and joint mechanics while improving physical function. RX may also normalize muscle firing patterns and joint biomechanics leading to reductions in joint pain and cartilage degradation. These physical adaptations could lead to improved self-efficacy and decreased anxiety and depression. RX can be prescribed and performed by patients across the OA severity spectrum. When designing and implementing an RX program for a patient with knee OA, it is important to consider both the degree of OA severity as well as the level of pain. RX, either in the home or at a fitness facility, is an important component of a comprehensive regimen designed to offset the physical and psychological limitations associated with knee OA. Unique considerations for this population include: 1) monitoring pain during and after exercise, 2) providing days of rest when disease flares occur, and 3) infusing variety into the exercise regimen to encourage adherence.
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