There is a mountain of research to support the benefits of exercise in the management of knee osteoarthritis, but there are so many types of activity, where do you start?
Of course, things such as walking, swimming, cycling and tai chi all have great benefits, but here are five simple exercises specific to the knee that you can try at home.
1. Lying knee bends
- These are great as a gentle exercise first thing in the morning when joints can be stiff from being in one position for most of the night.
- Either lie or sit in bed with your knees straight. Gently bend your knee, sliding your heel towards your bottom. Do this 10 times on the same side, then swap to the other leg and repeat.
2. Seated knee extensions
- Another simple exercise that can easily be done while watching TV or reading. Management of knee osteoarthritis can be made to fit in with your daily life!
- Sit in a well-supported chair with your feet flat on the floor. Slowly straighten one knee and hold for 3 seconds, then slowly lower your foot back to the ground. Do this 10 times on the same side, then swap to the other leg and repeat.
- Exercises where we are using the weight of our body are very effective in helping to improve strength and function. If you have some trouble with your balance, make sure you do these exercises while holding something secure in front of you such as a rail, table or kitchen bench.
- Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, slowly bend at your knees and hips to come down into a slight squatting position. It is important to keep your knees aligned with your feet and not let them go further in front of your toes. Focus on bending at the hips and imagine you’re lowering yourself to sit down on a chair.
4. Hamstring curls
- These can be done sitting or standing. If done in standing position, be mindful that it will be more stressful through the other leg as well as more challenging for your balance, so make sure you have something secure to hold onto.
- Slowly bend your knee, bringing the heel of your foot towards your bottom. Slowly lower back down. Do this 10 times and repeat with the other leg.
5. Sit-to-stand and stand-to-sit
- What better way to exercise than to practise something you might be having trouble with.
- Once again, ensure you are using a chair that gives you good support. Chairs with higher seat height put less stress on your joints and this can be varied for difficulty and based on pain levels. Using a chair with armrests can also help you if this is a painful task.
- Sitting straight in the chair, lean forward and push yourself up into a standing position. Try to keep your knees aligned with your feet and your weight even between both legs when doing this. Once balanced in standing, slowly lower yourself back down to sit on the chair.
The frequency of these exercises can vary depending on what’s suitable for you.
For successful management of knee osteoarthritis, these exercises can also be made more difficult through adjustments in technique and the use of weight, whatever is best for you. Exercises that target the hip and ankle can also be beneficial due to the joints being linked. This is where a full body physiotherapy assessment can help in creating and monitoring an exercise program specific to your needs.
We’d love to help you on your journey to achieving your goals, so contact us today!
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Written by May-Ann Low (physiotherapist – Melbourne East)