Can Swimming Help My Knee Pain?

June 21, 2018 | Tyler Steven Watters, MD


We tend to head to the pool to beat the summer heat, but there are many more benefits to swimming than just cooling off! No matter your age, weight or condition, swimming is one of the best low-impact activities. In fact, at Raleigh Orthopaedic Clinic we often recommend swimming to our patients with knee arthritis.

When you are suffering from knee arthritis exercising may be the last thing on your mind, but regular activity can actually lessen arthritis pain and other symptoms. Since swimming takes the pressure off the knees it is the ideal option for staying fit and improving mobility even when you are experiencing pain.

How does swimming help?

The buoyancy of the water supports a portion of your body weight, and puts less stress on your aching knee. A regular water exercise program can reduce your joint stiffness, strengthen muscles around your joints and increase flexibility.  In addition, swimming is a great aerobic and total body workout as it engages almost every major muscle group, requiring a person to use their arms, legs, torso and abdomen to move through the water.

Are there any downsides to swimming?

While swimming can provide a lot of benefits, it is important to remember that it is a not a weight-bearing activity and does little to strengthen your bones. According to the AAOS, a weight-bearing activity is defined as any activity you do on your feet, such as walking, jogging, hiking and stair-climbing. When you combine swimming with weight-bearing activities, you will improve your overall health.

What should I do before starting a new exercise program?

If you choose swimming as a low-impact exercise for knee arthritis, be sure to discuss your decision with your doctor or physical therapist. It is normal to experience mild discomfort during exercise and slight soreness the day after exercising. If you experience severe pain, swelling or stiffness, however, stop exercising the affected joint and see your doctor.

In summary, swimming is a great form of physical activity, so jump in and get started!


Dr. Tyler Steven Watters

About the Author

This article was written by Tyler Steven Watters, M.D. Dr. Watters is a fellowship trained orthopaedic surgeon specializing in adult reconstructive joint replacement surgery, focusing on total hip replacement, total knee replacement, partial knee replacement, and revision surgery.  In addition to joint replacement surgery, Dr. Watters performs arthroscopic surgery of the knee for sports injuries. Dr. Watters also has a dedicated interest in periprosthetic and lower extremity fractures.