The other day I was playing softball with a few friends when my buddy Frank whacked the ball deep into left field. As he rounded first base and sprinted toward second, I noticed that his pace began to slow to a discernable crawl.
The next morning, Frank told me that it was his knee arthritis acting up. âI felt a sharp pain in my right knee after I rounded first,â he admitted. âAnd now my knee feels stiff like a board!â
Frankâs knee pain is likely a sign of osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis in America. This issue not only affects the knees; it affects the joints in the hips, hands, lower back, and spine.
Over the years, cartilage in the joints breaks down and the bones will grind together and cause pain.
Who Can Get Knee Arthritis?
Frank isnât alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, osteoarthritis is a problem for 27 million Americans. Others may suffer from the next common type of arthritic pain, rheumatoid arthritis. It is a systemic autoimmune disease that affects about 1.5 million people in the U.S. The inflammation will mostly attack joints such as the knees, wrists, hands, ankles, and feet.
Also Read ==> Pain Behind Knee – Causes and Natural Treatments
Knee osteoarthritis will be an issue for one out of every two adults in their lifetimes. It can affect people at any age, but the pain is known to develop in individuals over the age of 40âand the chances of getting it increase with age. In fact, osteoarthritis will affect 80% of people over 50 years of age.Rheumatoid arthritis can also begin at any age; however, the onset will often occur for people between 30 years old and 60 years old. Women are two to three times more likely to be affected by rheumatoid arthritis than men.
How Exercise Helps Knee Arthritis
People who are obese or overweight have an increased risk of getting osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritisâbeing overweight can also worsen the arthritis symptoms. It is vital for a person with knee arthritis pain to achieve a normal body weight. The combination of a nutrient-dense diet and exercise is a useful approach in knee arthritis prevention.
The lack of exercise can reduce the hydration of joint cartilage and stop the spread of beneficial nutrients to the affected arthritis pain. People with arthritis also tend to stop exercising due to the pain, but being physically inactive will reduce muscle strength. Weak muscles will increase the wear and tear on joints, which can lead to gaining a few extra pounds and worsen the symptoms of osteoarthritis.
âBut how can I exercise with an arthritic knee?â You may ask. âAfter all, Iâm putting more pressure on my painful joints!â Regular exercise has been found to improve cartilage function in osteoarthritis patients. In a 2009 meta-analysis, researchers discovered that exercise reduces pain and improves physical functions in those with knee osteoarthritis symptoms.
Overall, exercise will help strengthen the muscles that support the knee joints. The joints will therefore be able to maintain a full range of motion.
What Are the Best Exercises for Knee Arthritis?
When Frank opened up about his knee arthritis, he asked for advice on how to improve it. First, I told him that he doesnât have to spend two hours at the gym every day pumping iron; gentle, low-impact exercises are beneficial for knee osteoarthritis, because they reduce joint stress. Here are a few simple exercise treatments I recommend for anyone suffering from knee arthritis:
Yoga is the perfect exercise to treat knee pain. Yoga promotes stress reduction and relaxation. In a 2005 pilot study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, researchers discovered that yoga could decrease the disability and pain in obese patients over the age of 50 who have knee osteoarthritis. The participants took a 90-minute yoga class once a week for eight weeks. Further evidence suggests that yoga is better than physiotherapy exercises to help reduce morning stiffness, anxiety, pain, and blood pressure in knee osteoarthritis patients.
For centuries, qigong (a form of gentle exercise and meditation) has helped people cope with the inflammation associated with knee osteoarthritis. The gentle stretches associated with qigong can help support joint motion and strengthen oneâs overall movement. A randomized controlled study published in the journal Clinical Rehabilitation in 2009 found that qigong improved the physical function and quality of life in 44 elderly patients who suffered from osteoarthritis of the knee. The patients were randomly selected to participate in the qigong program and they practiced qigong for 60 minutes, twice weekly for eight weeks.
3. Tai chi
Tai chi is similar to qigong in that it uses slow motions that form a series of synchronized exercises. In a systematic review of randomized controlled studies published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science in 2014, researchers discovered that tai chi effectively improved physical function and relieved pain for knee osteoarthritis patients.
Other Low-Impact Exercises
Walking is another simple, low-impact exercise that can help build strong bones and strengthen muscles. Walking in a shallow pool can also help you build knee flexibility. Here are a few more gentle stretching exercises to reduce knee arthritis symptoms:
1. Standing quad stretch
The standing quad stretch posture is a great way to ease knee joint tension. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and bend the right knee while holding your right foot with the right hand. Your right heel should be stretched toward your glutes. Hold the posture for 30 seconds and repeat with the left leg. Use a wall to help with balance. Perform this exercise three times daily.
2. Reclining hamstring stretch
Lie down with your back on the floor. Keep your legs straight then lift your right leg and pull it toward your chest until you feel a nice stretch. Hold the leg up, with your hands or with a strap, for 30 seconds. Repeat with the left leg. If the stretch is too intense, then bend your leg slightly until it is comfortable. The stretch will help alleviate hamstring tightness that increases aggravation of knee pain. For best results, perform this exercise three times daily.
3. Seated leg raise
The seated leg raise will help strengthen your knee muscles. First, sit on a chair and bend both legs 90 degrees. Slowly raise your right leg parallel to the floor, while keeping your left foot on the ground. Hold the position for 30 seconds then repeat with the left leg. Complete the exercise 10 times (in two sessions) daily.
4. Standing calf stretch
The calf stretch will help increase flexibility in knee joints and leg muscles. Bring your right foot three feet in front of the left foot. The left leg must be straight. Next, bend the right legâbut make sure the knee doesnât bend past your toes. Press your heel toward the ground and stretch the calf of the back leg. Hold the position for 30 seconds and then repeat with the other leg. Perform this stretch three times a day.
It is possible that youâll feel sore after stretching or exercising. Itâs best to stop exercising your knee joints and consult a doctor if your stiffness, swelling, or pain is severe or worsens.
Key Takeaway: Slow and Steady Improves Your Pain
Remember, youâre not trying to win a race. The important thing is that you improve your knee osteoarthritis pain. If youâre a beginner to exercising, it is important to start slow. Exercise for 15 minutes, three days a week. The next week, try 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week. After about four to six weeks, you should experience less pain and more mobility in the knee.
See more :
Vandever, L., âEasy Exercises for Knee Arthritis,â Healthline web site, November 11, 2014; http://www.healthline.com/health/osteoarthritis/easy-excercises-knee.
Gentile, J.M., â5 Exercises for Knee Osteoarthritis,â Practical Pain Management web site; http://www.practicalpainmanagement.com/patient/conditions/knee-osteoarthritis/5-exercises-knee-osteoarthritis?page=2#top, last accessed May 25, 2015.
âArthritis-Related Statistics,â Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web site; http://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/data_statistics/arthritis_related_stats.htm, last accessed May 25, 2015.