Reversing Osteoarthritis – Step By Step

Osteoarthritis can usually be reversed. Certain specific exercises are needed. These are simple and not particularly strenuous.joint

Properly maintained, joints will last a lifetime. Otherwise, osteoarthritis may develop and begin to destroy the joint. With appropriate exercise, osteoarthritis can usually be reversed..

Joint Health

If you are a non-exerciser, this is a good place to start. Modest effort should yield noticeable results fairly quickly. If you already exercise, make sure you can do everything described in this post.

If you already have osteoarthritis, you will need to start exercises that will start the repair process.

After six to eight weeks of these  exercises you should have significantly improved joint range, with no, or at worst, substantially less pain than when you started.

If you had osteoarthritis, recovery should be well underway.

How Joints Work – The Short Course

Cartilage is the shiny hard material seen at the end of a chicken bone. In a working joint, it rubs against the cartilage of another bone. Sometimes there is a pad between them. The joint is enclosed in a pouch and lubricated with a slippery fluid. In spite of the lubrication and hardness, cartilage would soon wear out except for one detail: it’s alive. There are living cells embedded in it that continually manufacture new cartilage. However, unlike all other cell types, the cartilage cells do not have a blood supply. The nutrients are instead found in the lubricating fluid. The cells comprising the pouch  make the lubricating fluid as well as generating the nutrients for the cartilage cells.


You will have healthy cartilage and no osteoarthritis forever if you do two things:

  1. Spread the nutrient-containing fluid all over the joint frequently. No partial range of motion exercises. An example of the effects of fixed range of motion damage is the index finger of someone who writes longhand a great deal. The joints of this finger are far worse than those of the other fingers.
  2. Compress the joint, by putting pressure on it, so that the nutrients get down into the cartilage.

If you don’t do this, the cells in the cartilage starve and won’t make new cartilage. The old wears out, and can potentially wear through to the bone, a very undesirable situation. However, in most cases, the cartilage can be built back up and osteoarthritis reversed.

To spread the nutrients all over the joints, run them through their full range of motion frequently, or as fully as you can. To get the fluid down into the cartilage, make the joint do some work. Put some pressure on it.

Crucially, you have to do this. Unlike a lot of other things, the body doesn’t automatically take care of getting nutrients to the cartilage. The necessary exercises are simple and fast, but absolutely necessary that you take the time and trouble. Properly maintained in this way, joints will last a lifetime and a half. The only exceptions would be those damaged in some way, or overly stressed from substantial obesity and limited range of motion work; they happen to go together.

Let’s Get Started

We will use the knees as an example. However, osteoarthritis in any other joint would be reversed the same way: by careful and calibrated working of the joint through it range of motion.

The knees, though, are usually everyone’s weak link and are a good example. Start by seeing how far you can squat. Ideally you can get your fanny almost all the way to the floor with no pain. If you can squat this deeply and come back up with no pain, and you have no other joint problems, you can probably skip the rest of this post. Just remember to frequently run your joint under full range of motion, while employing some mild weight or resistance.full squat

If you do not have full range knee motion, here is the procedure to fix it. Start standing. Give your pain level a number from 0 to 10, where 0 is no pain at all, and 10 is excruciating. Whatever your number is, make a mental note of it as your baseline number.

Keeping this baseline number in mind, and starting from a standing position, no weight, squat as far as you can with no additional pain, then go a bit farther so that it hurts just a little (or if it hurt during standing, a little more). How much is “just a little”? About two “clicks” more than your baseline number. If 3 were your standing baseline pain, squat to about a level 5. Remember that spot and squat to that same position 10 times. Rest a bit, then do two more sets of these. What you have just done is lubricate and nourish your cartilage in areas where it was starving. It will immediately start building new, fresh cartilage.

The next day, your knees should hurt a bit and again the next day. If they already hurt when you began the exercise, they should hurt a bit more. The third day, they should be back to normal; your starting baseline. Don’t repeat this exercise until the knees are back to normal. If it took more than two days to return to normal, you went at it too hard. Wait till the additional pain has subsided then start anew, but this time go for a lesser amount of pain. If, on the other hand, there was no additional pain the next day, or it only lasted a day, you need to press a bit harder and increase the range—range is key.

When you reach a point of full range, with no pain, and no (increased) pain the next day, add some weight. Use dumbbells or a barbell. Start light, continuing with the same procedure. Again, seek full range before adding weight.

Why all this elaborate pain business? Over three decades, Dr. Mike has tried various combinations of pain and recovery in order to fix joints. The above method has proven the fastest. Expect things to start happening quickly. There should be a noticeable improvement in a couple of weeks. Keep this up until you have gotten full range with no pain at all. You don’t get to stop, but at this point you have reached an important milestone, your knee joints are in top shape. Remember, the joints won’t take care of themselves. You have to lubricate and nourish them with full range motion, and squeeze that nourishment into the cartilage by putting pressure on the joint.

Any other joints can be repaired the same way. Remember to go two notches above your baseline pain. Two notches is the level needed for the three day recovery.

Can’t Joints Be Beyond a Point of No Return?

Possibly. You should get medical advice. However even a severely damaged joint can often be brought back from the abyss. Consider Dr. Mike’s own experience: “I damaged my right knee due to a mountain climbing accident about 30 years ago. Over time the pain was getting worse and, though I knew better, I was not employing my own full range of motion rule. About 3 years ago an MRI reported ‘severe tri-compartmental osteoarthritis, with areas of NO cartilage, and a large tear in the middle of the thinly remaining medial meniscus.’ Knee replacement or exercise? I opted to give the latter a chance even in this severe case. After all, what did I have to lose at this point? So far, the exercises allow me completely pain free walking and hill sprinting. I also have full range, but with some pain, though less than before. Will I wind up with a ‘new’ knee? Maybe, maybe not. Worth a try.”

What About Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, and is not a degenerative disease. A specialist is mandatory here as there are many effective treatments. However, once stabilized, the above “repair and maintenance” exercises would be equally important.

Vitamin D Supplementation

Low vitamin D can cause joint issues. Be sure your level is good, ideally above 40 ng/ml. Unless you get a lot of sunshine, you will probably have to take 5,000 IU per day to achieve this. These 5,000 IU pills are a lot higher than the 400 IU pill often recommended, but they are perfectly safe


  26 comments for “Reversing Osteoarthritis – Step By Step

    • April 17, 2017 at 8:51 am

      I will take a look at it but would like to tell you upfront that she is a complete nihilist on almost everything related to exercise, nutrition, supplementation and related. I’ve had a few indirect, but real, exchanges with her and found her immune to anything outside of her preselected set of beliefs.
      I should disclose that I agree with her that profound scepticism is appropriate with respect to most claims made in these areas. If you follow her for any somewhat prolonged time you will see how corroding her scepticism finally becomes. I appreciate such a visible and famous author not being a cheerleader for a lot of silliness that passes as ‘medical science’ but think she has exceeded the bounds of sense.
      When I read it and have time I will get back to you, Jim.
      You may wonder why I’ve responded as I have here; it is that I believe superstition is bad and that boundless scepticism as a metaphysics may be even worse.
      I feel she does harm thereby,
      Dr. Mike

    • To Jim
      February 3, 2019 at 5:04 am

      This author is doing a lot of damage with misinformation. It goes against almost everything I have learned, and what I have witnessed. I have healed myself without medication, thanks to the guidance of healers who think out of the box. It’s as simple as 60% nutrition and 40% exercise. Alternative medicine is way ahead in the game. Researching actual case histories is a whole different story. We are NOT getting out in the sun like we were in years past, and it takes a whole lot of vitamin d supplementation to be toxic.
      Medical tunnel vision is killing our loved ones slowly and painfully. It’s a choice- doesn’t have to be that way.

  1. Drifter
    April 22, 2017 at 12:27 pm

    I would add that proper gait and posture is critical. I used to have constant knee pain despite working my knees through a fairly full range of motion, and when I discovered and corrected a tendency to have my feet pointed out when I ran (something I notice that a lot of people do), the pain resolved, although it took about a year. Adding more full range of motion moves, specifically front squats, was also a huge help, as you recommend. I would also recommend the books of Pete Egoscue to anyone with joint pain.

  2. Joanne kesic
    May 22, 2017 at 11:15 am

    Can anyone give me advice on hip osteoarthritis cartilage is worn to the bone in one area and there are numerous bone cysts on the head of the femur I’m only young 54 but down for a hip replacement .

  3. R
    October 11, 2017 at 8:03 am

    Hi am 53yr post menopausal lady diagnosed with multi compartment Aosteoarthditisl of both the knees.right now Iam on glucosamine
    Hydrochliride chondroitin sulphate. Treatment.the treatment has give. Me very good result in that I feel my knees have strengthened than Compared to my earlier weak knees.however my problem is my bow shaped legs which I feel have become more bow shaped.kindly advise if my knees are feeling strong then why are my legs lookin more bow shaped feeling confused.kindly advise..thanks.

  4. James
    December 6, 2017 at 9:15 am

    Do you have a list of exercises for the whole body? Thank you in advance 🙂

  5. Francesca
    January 26, 2018 at 11:29 am

    I am 48 and have been obese for many years, but began a weight loss regimen that has been very successful for me in the last 7 months. I have a long way to go still and I’m wondering if it’s too late to save my knees. I have arthritis in both knees and my ortho says I’m ALMOST bone on bone, and will most likely need knee replacements in my 50s. I’m determined to prove him wrong and am working hard to strengthen all the muscles that support my knees. Is there hope for me?

  6. John
    February 21, 2018 at 5:50 am

    Thank you Dr. Nichols, this is very helpful. I’d like to find a Dr. like you in my area (CT). I am a very active and athletic 65 year old with an MRI report that reads like yours. I stumbled into the “deep squats” on my own (also feel great for lower back) and have been trying to hold the down position longer and learn to be more relaxed in that position. That, along with more stretching, other exercises, and improving a minor asymmetry in my walking gait due to another injury seems to be helping my knee pain enormously. I have partial knee replacement surgery scheduled, and am considering postponing it now to see how far I can get without it.

  7. Roselyn Veado
    March 29, 2018 at 4:09 pm

    I was diagnosed in June, 2013 with OSTEOARTHRITIS of the spine and both knees, symptoms started with severe back pain, joint swelling and stiffness in my knees and eventually the feeling spread to my shoulders and neck, i couldn’t lift my arm without pain medications. I was prescribed tramacet and arcoxia for 8 months but had to stop them due to bad effects. In 2017, I started on OSTEOARTHRITIS HERBAL FORMULA from RICH HERBS FOUNDATION, this natural herbal treatment reversed my osteoarthritis. Visit ww w. richherbsfoundation. com. The treatment worked incredibly for my arthritis condition.

  8. Richard
    October 29, 2018 at 2:29 pm

    I have moderate to severe hip arthritis. My doctor just affirmed that no cure is available. Your website indicates otherwise. However, you make no mention of nutritional supplementation beyond vitamin D blood levels.

    The right nutrients have to be present in synovial fluids in order to repair the cartilage. Please address the needed collagen types,I,II,III,V, X ; protein (15% of calories or higher), essential oils, and any other dietary factors you deem critical to rapid repair.

  9. Ian Bray
    February 2, 2019 at 3:29 pm

    Thank you for this information. I wish to follow your advice with my shoulder (s). I had an xray recently and half my cartidge has worn and i am told its due to osteoarthritis.
    I understand the correct work load for the knees to rejeuvenate cartlidge, but i am struggling to decide on the correct exercise for restoring the shoulders.
    Can you possibly advise me on this.

    Kind regards

  10. Ian Bray
    February 2, 2019 at 3:40 pm

    Working my shoulders with osteoarthritis. In the same boat. From what i understand, you get the full range of proteins in Whey Isolate.
    Has to be isolate. And the other nutrients are enzymes.
    Im no authority. Just a share of what I have found out myself.
    For the mind, which plays its part in this auto immune problem, have a look at the work of Dr Joe Dispenza. Lots on Youtube. Making medical breakthroughs. A good start would be to listen to ‘Making the most of your mind’.
    Full support to you doing this. It can be done, and its as though we are the pioneers.

    Kind regards

  11. March 1, 2019 at 3:24 pm

    Hello, this is encouraging to hear. I am suffering from arthritis in my jaw and neck after some tooth loss. I’ve had joint issues before and have fibromyalgia so I’ve worked at exercising and I’m very strong and have good mobility and can climb and run very fast as well as being a dancer with very good flexibility. I always thought joints were capable of healing and full recovery but yesterday I visited a very negative dentist, who also lacked compassion. I need teeth implants to support my jaw and I thought this would allow the arthritis to repair because I have tmj, but he told me it was impossible for my jaw to heal, and claimed that the jaw has nothing to do with my teeth even though it was fine before I had excessive drilling and dental procedures which caused three of my teeth to fall apart and now my jaw is unstable, cracking and popping all the time. I am hopeful hearing your advice. I had been trying a similar regime to fixing my joints before, and I was able to achieve athletic abilities which I had previously not attempted due to my joint pain. If you have any advice about the neck and jaw I’d like to h ear more. I am concerned about potentially making anything worse i
    n these delicate areas, and because I feel a lot of tearing and grinding. Thank you for the post.

  12. Veronica
    June 7, 2019 at 2:14 am

    This is an interesting and encouraging article. I’ve been diagnosed in my early/mid 40’s with early osteoarthritis of hip joints and now in the joints at base of my thumb, in addition to my jaw. I follow gluten/dairy free diet already, and now avoiding soy and preservatives, etc. With regard exercise, what can be recommended when the osteoarthritis is in small, non-load bearing joints like in the hands and jaw? They are getting lots of exercise from typing, talking (!) and daily activities. What can be recommended to redeem those small joints?

  13. Milan
    August 3, 2019 at 7:21 am

    I have tried various supplements with turmeric+ginger, MSM, Magnesium lotions, etc with some indication of relief along with the exercises prescribed on this blog. I also had bad jaw pain which I solved with some heat/cold treatments with a pad called Kiron. It seems getting rid of pain allows for exercise/mobility and allows natural healing (virtuous cycle) whereas staying in pain does the reverse.

    • Paula
      February 25, 2021 at 2:55 am

      I’m 41. I have advanced arthritis in my lumbar, some in my cervical and early signs in my knees. I’m scared for my future and I’m alone. I believe in natural healing. My knees are extremely misaligned and will get them fixed this summer. Do my knees still have a chance? I’m so scared

      • Maple
        March 21, 2021 at 11:22 am

        Hi Paula,

        It sounds like Egoscue could really help you. There are some very good therapists (such as Caroline Clarke) who can consult via webcam and give you a tailored exercise regmin. If you research you will see Egoscue can really turn things around.

  14. John
    August 20, 2019 at 2:49 pm

    Has this worked for anyone.

    The medical consensus at this time is that arthritis is irreversible and degenerative.

    It seems to me however that if there is a chance for reversal it would be in some kind of exercise.

    I would think however that one should be careful because one does not want to make the joints worse. The problem with arthritis is that the joints are literally grinding down.

    The idea of working the joint and then resting it until the pain has subsided seems somewhat sound especially if the pain is diminishing and the range of motion improving on subsequent days. The compression of the joint at least somewhat also appears important to this theory of reversing arthritis.

    I think one might try this but I think people need to be careful. If the pain is getting worse one obviously needs to listen to that.

  15. Linda
    September 12, 2019 at 6:51 pm

    I took belly dance classes for and in less than less months the pain went away, my lower back was healed. Also, heat will help, walking outside in the sun. If unable to walk or no sun, heat pads, ice packs for pain. Stay away from NightShade Plants: potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, and sugar, aspartame sugar substitutes, salt, alcohol, saturated fats, white breads, rice, gluten foods. Eat: Fish rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, low fat products: calcium & vitamin D that promote strong joint health. Eat broccoli, citrus fruits, garlic, Green Tea, Fresh pineapple, Turmeric, Ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, whole cloves, black tea, fresh beets with pineapple ginger smoothie. No fried foods, BBQ, Blackened foods. Steam, boil, crock-Pots cooked foods. Capsaicin is good, you may try to rubber on skin 2 to 3 times per day, or just eat chili?. Belly dancing works miracles, I would not lie to you. Belly dance works the core of the body, try it, it’s for men & women, and it’s fun.
    Belly dance: Only the truth and nothing but the truth so help me God.

    • Hans Lundberg
      September 16, 2019 at 5:08 am

      “Belly dance: Only the truth and nothing but the truth so help me God.”

      Well, I may not try belly dance but You have convinced me to start with a hula-hoop ring. Then what follow that we will see …

  16. April 19, 2020 at 2:35 pm

    Can taking vitamin D supplements reverse already existing join damages?

  17. Susan
    September 11, 2020 at 4:01 pm

    I have advanced degenerative changes of the hip… Is there any hope for me without surgery… My Dr. says it can’t be reversed. I have bone spurs too. He called it severe degeneration osteoarthritis in both hips. I am 68. Was active most of my life.

  18. Lynette Smulders
    November 6, 2020 at 3:32 am

    Interesting article, thank you. How would you exercise all the joints in your (arthritic) feet?

    • Bellascout
      April 12, 2021 at 9:07 am

      I have the same question. I have arthritis on the top of my feet with one foot bone on bone practically.

  19. Jim Taller
    May 13, 2021 at 11:37 am

    Does anyone ever answer these messages? I see a ton of questions and only two or three responses. I have chosen not to ask my question, since 95% of the questions go unanswered. Try harder, please.

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