Arthritis of the Knee – How Exercise Helps the Pain and Symptoms
According to the Centre for Disease control, an estimated 52.5 million US adults annually were told by a doctor that they have some form of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus, or fibromyalgia from 2010- 2012. (1)
Further studies have shown that nearly 1 in 2 people will develop symptoms of arthritis of the knee by age 85 years and two out of three obese individuals could develop arthritis of the knee in their lifetime. (3)
What is Arthritis of the Knee?
Arthritis of the knee is known as the wear and tear type of arthritis. Osteoarthritis breaks down the cartilage in between the joint which causes the bones to grind together. When the bones begin to rub against one another, the result is pain, swelling, stiffness, decreased range of motion and, finally the formation of osteophytes (bone spurs).
Who Gets Osteoarthritis of the Knee?
Osteoarthritis isn’t unique to any particular age; anyone can develop it. However, it most frequently develops after the age of 40.
Osteoarthritis occurs slowly over time and is precipitated by several risk factors. These risk factors include; being overweight, general aging, acute injury, malformed joints, genetic defects in the joint cartilage and stress particular to work or sports.
What Helps Arthritis of the Knee? How is it Treated?
The primary objectives when treating arthritis of the knee are to relieve the pain and return the range of motion. The treatment plans will usually include a combination of the following; weight loss, anti-inflammatories, corticosteroid injections, unloader or support braces, physical therapy including an exercise prescription, alternative therapies such as acupuncture and prolotherapy and finally when all else fails – surgery.
How Does Exercise Help?
Exercising a knee with arthritis may feel contrary to what you should be doing, however, the truth is that regular exercise can lessen and even alleviate pain and symptoms, such as swelling and stiffness.
Some of the reasons exercise helps with improving symptoms are because it helps strengthens the muscles that support the joint which helps it to absorb shock and reduce the chance of further injury, and it maintains a full range of motion through improving flexibility.
What is the Best Exercise?
When you have a pre-existing condition, before starting any exercise program, you should ensure you see a physiotherapist who can communicate clearly with a personal trainer. It is always important to work with professionals to reduce the risk of further injuring the joint.
Walking is an excellent place to start, it is low-impact, however, because it’s weight-bearing, it strengthens the muscle while building bone. Ensure you purchase appropriate shoes before starting a walking program. Start slow; gradually increasing pace and distance for best results and reduced pain.
Water exercises, such as Aqua Fitness or swimming are superior for strengthening muscle and knee flexibility. The body is buoyant in water, which reduces impact to almost nothing but makes you work harder.
Home Rehabilitation Exercise
Consistency is always key when embarking on a rehabilitation program. Exercise that can be done anywhere is going to make this more achievable.
Here are some common exercises prescribed for osteoarthritis of the knee:
The Quarter Squat:
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, initially, hold onto a chair for balance. Slowly bend your knees until you reach a 45-degree angle or a half-sitting position. Make sure your back remains straight and chest up. Your feet should be flat on the floor, then hold the position for five seconds. Stand back up slowly, squeezing the glutes at the top of the movement. Start with 1 set or 5 repetitions, adding on 1 to 2 repetitions each time you perform the exercise. When you can achieve one full set of 10 repetitions, slowly work up to doing 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
Knee Strengthener – Thigh Blasters:
Sit in a sturdy chair, plant one foot firmly on the floor. Start the other leg at a 90-degree bend and then slowly straighten the leg forward until the hip, knee and ankle are in one line. Once the leg is in the fully extended position, contract the quads and hold for 5 seconds. Relax the leg and return it back to the starting position. Complete 1 set of 5 repetitions on one leg then repeat with the other leg. Add on 1 to 2 repetitions each time you perform the exercise. When you can achieve one full set of 10 repetitions, slowly work up to doing 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
Lie on the floor, in a doorway, with both legs bent. Slowly lift one leg, still bent, and place the heel on the door frame. Slowly straighten your leg by slowly moving your heel up the door frame. Pull yourself closer to the door frame so your leg is closer to a 90-degree angle until you feel a light stretch. Hold the stretch for 30 to 60 seconds, then slowly bend the knee and lower the leg back down.
Stand straight, holding on to the back of a chair. Wrap a towel around your ankle, keep the knees bent and feet flat. Tuck the butt tightly under hips and slowly start to pull the heel towards the bottom until you feel a stretch in the front of the thigh. Stop immediately if you feel pressure or pain in the knee. Hold the stretch for 30 to 60 seconds, then slowly straighten the knee and lower the leg back down.
What Should I Do if Exercise Hurts?
Mild discomfort is normal during initial exercise programs. You should also expect mild soreness the day after training. However, stop any exercise that affects the joint with symptoms such as severe pain, swelling, or stiffness, contact your personal trainer and see your doctor.
The Centre for Disease Control (CDC), suggest people with arthritis of the knee should do moderate exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Initially, you could even break it down into 3 smaller bite-size workouts of 10-minute each — switch it up to 2 – 15-minute workouts and then increasing to the full 30 minutes. In 4-to 6-weeks you should experience better mobility and less pain.
Before and After Exercise
Put a moist heat pack on your knee for 20-minutes before exercise. Heat will bring the blood to the surface, which decreases stiffness and soothes the pain. Take pain medications 45-minutes before you train for pain control during your workout.
After working out, put ice on the knee for about 10 minutes. Ice will help to bring down swelling from the exercise. It will also help to relieve pain.
Hire a Personal Trainer
Hiring a certified Personal Trainer through Infofit is one of the best investments you can make with regard to your overall health and fitness. If you are serious about a future, fuelled by healthy eating, increased activity and infinite possibilities then start with your very own Infofit life coach and personal trainer.
Cathie Glennon – BCRPA/SFL
3) Murphy L, Schwartz TA, Helmick CG, Renner JB, Tudor G, et al. Lifetime risk of symptomatic knee osteoarthritis. Arthritis Rheum 2008;59(9):1207–1213 doi: 10.1002/art.24021. PubMed PMID: 18759314. abstract