Managing Pain from Knee Arthritis

an older man on a couch uses a hot water bottle or ice pack on his knee

Osteoarthritis (OA), also known as degenerative joint disease, is one of the most common forms of arthritis, affecting over 30 million people in the United States alone. Nearly one in every 10 people are coping with the inflammation and joint cartilage loss of OA. Commonly seen in the hands, hips and knees, OA can cause pain, aching, stiffness, swelling, and decreased range of motion.

Since I have been diagnosed with OA, research surrounding the disease is of great interest to me. Working for Aging and Disability Services, I have the privilege of taking an active role in promoting overall health and wellness, including programs that highlight the importance of physical activity and the value of pain management.

I am encouraged by the work of Dr. Kushang V. Patel, Research Associate Professor at the University of Washington, and Paige Denison, Director of Health and Wellness at Sound Generations. Their PACIFIC Study—a National Institutes of Health funded clinical trial—is exploring how exercise in combination with educational programs on health can improve pain and physical functioning among older adults with knee arthritis.

The PACIFIC Study is now recruiting participants—specifically, the study seeks King County residents aged 65+ with knee arthritis who are looking to establish an exercise routine. Participants have an opportunity to attend four months of free, virtual EnhanceFitness exercise classes.

“Dr. Patel’s work to adapt EnhanceFitness and increase accessibility is so timely and we feel fortunate to support and learn from this important study,” Denison shared.

When reflecting on their time in the study, one PACIFIC Study participant shared, “I never thought that I could feel so connected to people over Zoom. This study has been the gift that keeps on giving during this challenging time.”

“Having a group that exercises together, while supporting one another, is what many people with arthritis need and want to get stronger and healthier and reduce their pain,” Patel said.

Developed in the 1990s by the University of Washington’s Health Promotion Research Center and Group Health Cooperative, in partnership with Sound Generations, EnhanceFitness continues to be a successful, nationally administered program today. Their falls prevention program is evidence-based and arthritis friendly, aiming to help older adults become more active, energized, and empowered to sustain independent lives.

Working together, EnhanceFitness and the PACIFIC Study are eager to help folks looking to manage knee arthritis pain in 2022. As a bonus, study participants will receive a Fitbit Inspire (an advanced fitness tracking watch that monitors movement, heart rate, and more), $300, and all the equipment and technical assistance they need to participate.

For more information or to get involved, call Dr. Patel’s team at 206-685-2082, e-mail, or visit

Mary Pat O’Leary, RN, MSN, Aging and Disability ServicesContributor Mary Pat O’Leary RN, BSN is a senior planner with Aging and Disability Services.

Editor’s Note: Studies have shown that knee osteoarthritis may be more common among African Americans and other people of color than white people in the United States, but more research is needed to identify contributing factors. While the study in this article does not focus on race, we encourage people of color who have knee osteoarthritis to participate in the study in order to take advantage of the opportunity to engage in fitness activities.

This article originally appeared in the March 2022 issue of AgeWise King County.