Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis, impacting the lives of millions around the world. Although this disorder may affect any joint in the body, the knee joint is particularly susceptible as it is a weight bearing joint. Over time, the protective cartilage that lines the ends of our bones wears down and can cause a plethora of symptoms including but not limited to pain, tenderness, loss of flexibility, stiffness and a grating sensation that we may often hear or feel. These symptoms can range from moderate to severe and if the cartilage wears down completely, you may be left with bone rubbing on bone.
If you experience any of the symptoms above, here are a few tips to strengthen the muscles around the knee. Simply walking the dog, parking a few more spaces away from the store or taking the stairs instead of the elevator are great ways to get that 30 minutes of light exercise each day. Movement is important for knee OA as it brings blood flow to the area, improves nutrient exchange into the cartilage, and produces natural lubrication, helping to promote longevity of your knees. If exercise is new to you, start with low-impact activity such as walking, swimming, biking, and/or elliptical.
A great strengthening exercise to perform is a mini squat by the counter top depicted in the picture. While performing the squat, move your butt back (like you’re sitting in a chair) and keep your knees over your toes. Perform 2 sets of 10 once per day, 3-4 times per week.
To maintain flexibility, try this simple hamstring stretch, which can reduce tightness behind the knee and improve overall comfort. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 2-3 times each leg.
If symptoms are not resolving, or worsen, apply ice to the knee a couple of times per day for 15 minutes or seek out a physical therapist as they are experts in movement. Physical Therapy not only helps reduce pain and stiffness, but increases strength/flexibility of both the knee and hip muscles. By doing so, you take stress off the knee joint and allow the knee to function properly with less wear and tear. Movement really is lubrication for your knees.
By James Goodwin, PTA, CSCS