Do you have knee osteoarthritis?
And are you worried that moving the joint will do more harm than good ?
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) says just the opposite: that, in fact, exercising is one of the best ways to manage your knee pain.
How Knee Exercises Provide Pain Relief
Exercise can help relieve the pain from knee osteoarthritis by strengthening the muscles around the joint. Stronger muscles ease the stress placed on the knee joint and act as shock absorbers, deflecting some of the day-to-day strain caused by walking and other activities. The AAOS guidelines emphasize that a wide range of exercises can improve knee pain, including weight-bearing, low-impact, and water-based activities.
Most non-impact exercises are good for knee health. In a study published in the journal PLOS ONE in 2015, women with osteoarthritis who did yoga movements three times a week experienced a reduction in knee pain after 12 weeks.
Another study published in Pain Research and Management in 2015 found that people with osteoarthritis who walked for at least 150 minutes a week reported less pain than their more-sedentary peers.
6 Ways to Build Strength and Stretch Your Knees
Regularly performing some of these recommended exercises for knee osteoarthritis may help improve your function and mobility:
- Straight leg raises
- Sitting Quads – Sit back in a firm chair, keeping your back straight, and straighten one leg out in front of you. Count to 10, and then slowly lower to the floor. Repeat 10 to 20 times with each leg.
- Lying down quads – Bend your left leg at the knee so that your left foot is on the floor. Keep the other leg straight and lift it up until it forms a 45-degree anwith the ground. Count to five, then lower, repeating 5 to 20 times with each leg.
- Wall slides – This movement targets your quadriceps and glutes. Lean your back and buttocks against a wall, keeping your legs shoulder-width apart and your feet 6 to 14 inches in front of you. Slowly slide down the wall by bending your knees until they form about a 45-degree angle. (Bend less if you experience pain.) Pause, then slowly slide back to the starting position. Perform three sets of 10 to 15 reps. Don’t do this exercise if you’re in pain or hear crunching or cracking in your knees.
- Standing heel raises – This exercise strengthens your calf muscles. With your hands placed on a sturdy table, stand up straight and tall. Lift both heels off the floor so you’re standing on your tip-toes and tighten your quadriceps to keep your legs straight. Don’t allow your knees to bend. Hold for one second, then slowly lower your heels to the floor. Repeat 20 times.
- Hamstring stretches– Stretching can increase your flexibility and help your joints move through their full range of motion, according to the Arthritis Foundation. To stretch your hamstrings, sit on a flat surface with your legs extended. Bend one of your knees up and then drop that knee over to the side, so that your foot is against the inside of your other leg. Lean forward from your hips and reach your hands toward the toes of the extended leg, feeling the stretch in that hamstring. Hold for 20 seconds, then switch legs.
- Calf stretches– Standing with your forearms against the wall, slide one leg back behind you and bend the knee of the front leg. Lean forward with your hips and press the heel of the extended leg down against the floor. (You will feel a gentle stretch in the knee, calf, and heel.) Hold for 20 seconds, then switch legs.
- Rear leg lifts – Strengthening the muscles at the back of your leg helps provide support for the knee. Lie flat on the floor on your stomach, resting your head on your arms. Use your gluteus and hamstring muscles (on the back of your thigh) to raise one heel toward the ceiling. Hold for five seconds, then lower. Repeat 10 times, then switch legs. As this exercise gets easier, add ankle weights for an added challenge.