Osteoarthritis can affect almost any joint in the body, but the most common areas are knees, hips, feet, and small joints in your hands.
In this guide we will be focusing on the knees.
What Is Osteoarthritis?
What Causes Osteoarthritis?
The exact cause is not known but several factors increase the likelihood of developing it:
- Joint injury: overusing your joint before it has had time to heal from injury or previous surgery.
- Age: the most common correlation of developing osteoarthritis.
- Gender: women are more likely to develop osteoarthritis than men.
- Obesity: additional weight puts excess strain on your knees as they are one of the main weight-bearing joints.
What Are the Symptoms?
The main symptoms of osteoarthritis are knee pain, stiffness and restrictions moving the joint. Swelling and tenderness may occur with the potential for a grating or crackling sound during movement.
These symptoms may come and go related to activity levels and even the colder weather. They can also increase in severity and physiotherapists rate them in 4 stages:
Stage 1 – Minor wear and tear within the joint and little to no pain in the knee
Stage 2 – The knee can feel stiff after being sedentary and bone spurs are more noticeable
Stage 3 – Cartilage in the knee begins to erode and the joint becomes inflamed. Pain and discomfort occur during normal activity
Stage 4 – Cartilage is almost completely gone which leads to a lot of pain and an inflamed joint.
What Else Could The Pain Be?
It is very important to correctly diagnose osteoarthritis. A misdiagnosis can lead to incorrect treatment and potentially worsen your symptoms.
If you’re not sure of your diagnosis, it’s important to arrange a physiotherapy appointment for an expert assessment.
Exercises For Osteoarthritis Of The Knee
The good news is that you can reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis using the following exercises which aim to increase flexibility and strengthen the surrounding muscles.
- Sit on the floor with both legs out straight. Stabilise yourself with your hands on either side of your hips, and keep your back straight.
- Slowly bend one knee until it feels stretched, but not until it becomes painful.
- Hold your leg in that position for 5 seconds, then slowly straighten your leg out as far as you can, again holding for 5 seconds.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-distance apart and stretch your arms out in front of you.
- Slowly bend your knees until you’re in a half-sitting position. Hold on to a chair for balance, if necessary.
- Keep your back straight and chest lifted — don’t lean forward.
- With your feet flat on the floor, hold the position for 5 seconds, then slowly stand back up.
Hamstring Stretch (Lying Down):
- Lie on the floor or bed with both legs bent.
- Slowly lift one leg, still bent, and bring your knee back toward your chest.
- Link your hands behind your thigh, not your knee, and straighten your leg.
- Pull your straight leg back toward your head until you feel the stretch.
- Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, then slowly bend your knee and lower your leg back to the floor.
Hamstring Stretch (Lying Down):
This includes anything with a low impact on the knee joint such as cycling or walking. Exercise can also be done in the shallow end of a swimming pool to reduce the load due to the buoyancy in the water.
How to Prevent Osteoarthritis of the Knee
You cannot fully prevent osteoarthritis because it’s a naturally occurring issue that will happen to everyone eventually – but you can help to lessen the daily stress on your joints. Some ways to take care of your knees are:
- Keep a healthy body weight – extra weight means extra wear on your knees and other joints.
- Control your blood sugar – high blood sugar raises your risk of osteoarthritis, so watch your diet and talk to a healthcare provider if this is an issue.
- Be active every day – try to get at least 30 minutes of mild exercise a day as this will help keep the knee from getting stiff.
- Prevent injury to your knees – always warm up with gentle movements and stretches before you exercise.
- Pay attention to pain – if the pain lasts for over an hour after exercise, you may have damaged your knees so rest until the pain subsides. If the pain continues, make an appointment with a physiotherapist.
Osteoarthritis in the knee is a common form of arthritis that occurs due to the breakdown of protective cartilage. For some people, it can cause pain and discomfort but the good news is that these symptoms can often be relieved using certain low impact exercises.
DISCLAIMER: All content within this column is provided for general information only and should not substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. S57 Health & Wellbeing Clinic is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a user based on the content of this site.