Many people with osteoarthritis of the knee avoid moving and exercise for fear of adding weight to their joints and exhausting themselves faster. However, this precaution is unfounded, as the joints will hurt more if they move too little.

On the one hand, exercise is crucial for the metabolism of articular cartilage and alleviating the pain of knee osteoarthritis . On the other hand, sports can strengthen muscles, improve joint stability, and promote mobility. This not only protects the knees, but also helps in everyday life, for example when climbing stairs or getting up from a chair.

Even if the joints hurt, it usually makes sense to keep moving. This is very difficult for many people with stiff and painful joints. For them it is particularly important to find a suitable training, which is also motivating and entertaining. For example practicing a sport in a group can be more stimulating.

Even if the body has to get used to sports at first and then is a bit exhausted, studies show that it pays to keep moving. After a few weeks, regular strength and flexibility training can relieve pain and improve joint function in people with osteoarthritis of the knee. Movement is also good for many people because it improves their general well-being, strengthens their inner confidence, and helps clear the mind.

Symptoms of knee osteoarthritis

Knee osteoarthritis usually begins with knee pain, which initially occurs only during exercise. As time progresses, the pain becomes more frequent and stronger. It can also occur at rest or at night and disturb your sleep. In addition, other conditions or symptoms can be added, such as stiff joints. For some people, the joints hurt especially in the afternoon or morning.

Depending on which part of the knee is affected, the person is more likely to have pain on the inside or outside of the knee. If the area under the kneecap is affected, pain can occur especially when getting up and going up stairs.

In severe osteoarthritis , pain also occurs at rest; in certain cases, they can be very strong, lead to exhaustion and severely limit daily life.

The knee joint may also be sensitive to pressure and feel stiffer. If the person begins to move less, this weakens the muscles and ligaments and can make the knee feel unstable.

Sometimes the knee becomes temporarily inflamed. Then usually the area feels warm, inflamed, and pain increases for a few days. Some people only have osteoarthritis inside or outside the knee joint . Usually this affects the inner side and can cause knee deformity.

What exercises are suitable for knee osteoarthritis?

Strength and flexibility training is recommended for treating knee osteoarthritis , ideally two to three times a week for about 45 minutes. If you can’t do that, you can try slowly increasing the time.

It is best to warm up for 5-10 minutes before starting any strengthening exercise, for example on an ergometer or brisk walking. It is also helpful to start with light exercises and gradually increase the load.

These are the most used exercises in the treatment, however, it is necessary that before putting them into practice a consultation with a doctor specialized in the treatment of osteoarthritis is made.

Exercise on the ladder

  • Put one foot on the first rung of the ladder.
  • Raise your other foot on the step and immediately lower it back to the ground.
  • Repeat for a minute, then switch sides.

To maintain stability, you can hold onto the railing or use a cane.

Strengthening the thigh muscles

  • Set up a chair or stool that is so high that the legs are bent at about a 90 degree position.
  • Apply a lightweight bracelet to the lower leg (above the ankle).
  • Slowly straighten one leg and lift it up, hold it straight for 5 seconds, then slowly bend back and down. Repeat 8 to 12 times, the same with the other leg.
  • Pause for about a minute, and repeat for 2-3 sets.

Initially, you can do the exercise without a weight bracelet, so that the movement has less resistance.

Get up without help from the chair

  • Sit in a chair, keep your legs at a 90 degree angle and slightly apart.
  • Cross your arms over your chest and lean your upper body slightly forward.
  • Now get up slowly without the help of your arms and sit down again.
  • Repeat for a minute first, then pause and try the exercise some more.

Over time you will be able to add more repetitions. The lower the chair, the more difficult the exercise will be. It is best to place the chair with the backrest against a wall to make it stable.

Coordination and flexibility exercises

Doctors and trainers specializing in osteoarthritis of the knee recommend that strengthening exercises be complemented with coordination and flexibility exercises. To improve coordination, for example when brushing your teeth, you can alternately stand on one leg. If you do some exercise over time, you can even stand on your toes.

The conclusion that doctors have been able to reach after extensive studies is that there is sufficient evidence to affirm that mild to moderate exercise does not cause or accelerate osteoarthritis , on the contrary, it is clearly effective in the management and treatment of pain and loss of functional capacity associated with osteoarthritis.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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