What is Knee Arthritis?
Arthritis of the knee joint is becoming increasingly more common not just in the elderly, but in the younger active adults too. In my practice, I have seen patients as young as 30 years old suffering from the pain of knee arthritis. The cause of knee arthritis is due to many factors of which include trauma/injury, previous surgery, lifestyle, bodyweight, activity level, and genetics. Some of these factors can be controlled and others cannot. But what is knee arthritis exactly? Knee arthritis is also known as degenerative joint disease and osteoarthritis. It is the wearing away of the cartilage in the knee joint. The articular (joint) cartilage is the protective coating over the bones in the knee. It distributes and absorbs the damaging forces in the knee. It has a slick coating of fluid (synovial fluid) that helps lubricate the joint. This cartilage is much like the Teflon coating of a new non-stick frying pain in the way that the coating keeps the food from sticking to the pan and protects the pan. But over time injury and activity can wear down this protective coating in the knee. The cartilage becomes worn away and can no longer protect the bones. Knee arthritis and pain soon follows.
What Are the Symptoms of Knee Arthritis?
Knee arthritis usually presents as a gradual onset of knee pain most common along the inside of the knee and back of the knee. It increases with weight bearing activities and often loss of motion and strength occurs. There can be mild swelling. This often leads to limited walking, steps, squatting, kneeling, running, and jumping. Many of my patients have trouble sleeping at night due to the pain. As the arthritis progresses, the pain and limitation in daily activities continue. So what can you do if you have knee arthritis?
Knee Arthritis Exercises
The loss of motion, strength, and increased swelling and pain of the knee must be addressed in a safe manner. As you lose your motion and flexibility, the stress in the knee gets greater due to the fact that your knee is not spreading the force of day to day activity across the full surface area of the joint. The muscles of the knee get weak and cannot support the joint which leads to further pain, swelling, and more arthritic wear. But you cannot just hit the gym and start doing exercises which may further damage the joint. The exercises must be done in a way to protect the arthritic joint, but still increase your motion, flexibility and strength. I have included the Top 5 Knee Arthritis exercises below with a video of the exercises.
Long Sitting Calf Stretch
This knee arthritis exercise will loosen the tight calf muscles and allow the knee to straighten. Hold each one for 5 seconds and do 10 repetitions once a day.
Towel Assisted Knee Bend
This is an important knee arthritis exercise as it will help to improve the bending motion (flexion) of the knee to help with steps and squats. Hold each one for 5 seconds and do 15 repetitions once a day.
This knee arthritis exercise is one of the most difficult for most of my patients to complete. It will help you be able to straighten the knee and walk easier. Do this for 5 minutes once a day. If you are unable to do this for 5 minutes due to pain, go as long as you can and gradually build up the time.
Sitting Hamstring Stretch
This is an excellent knee arthritis exercise to loosen the tight hamstring muscles along the back of the thigh and knee. These tight muscles will keep the knee from being able to straighten out properly further restricting the motion of the knee. Hold each stretch for 10 seconds and do 3 repetitions once a day.
This knee arthritis exercise will help to improve the strength of the quadriceps muscles which are the muscles needed to help you stand up from a seated position. Use pillows if needed to build up the chair and shorten the distance. Start with 10 repetitions and build up to 30 repetitions once a day.
Knee Lock Outs with a Ball
This bonus exercise is good for any knee arthritis exercise home program. Start with 10 repetitions and work up to 30 repetitions once a day.
What Else Can You Do?
There are many other natural treatment options for knee arthritis. In addition to the exercises, ice is helpful to alleviate swelling, and there are many nutritional supplements that have shown promise in alleviating the pain and stiffness with knee arthritis. At Flex Physical Therapy, we also use the 830Laser, BioQPulse, and Joint Nutracare Program. Start with the exercise program that I have shown you, but if your knee arthritis symptoms persist, you can schedule a Free Consult Here! We specialize in the treatment of knee arthritis. The longer you wait, the worse your condition can become. Schedule your Free Consult Now!