Do you suffer from knee pain?
Considerable research has found that exercises focused on strengthening the quadriceps (front thigh muscles) and hamstrings (muscles in the back of the thigh) help reduce knee pain from osteoarthritis. Patients need to find the middle ground in exercises that help but don’t hurt.Doing exercises in the swimming pool can be beneficial, as buoyancy reduces stress on the knee. Holding on to the side of the pool and kicking your legs will exercise some of the same muscles as leg lifts and squats.
Regardless of the underlying cause of pain, strengthening the muscles surrounding the knee can help reduce that pain. For patients with high levels of pain, the initial focus might be isometric exercises — repetitions of muscle contractions and relaxation done without bending the knee.
Overall, walking helps strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee, as long as the knee pain isn’t causing a limp or changes in the person’s gait. In that case, walking for exercise could worsen the situation. Other, more tolerable options might include using an elliptical trainer, walking in a swimming pool or perhaps riding a stationary bicycle.
Squats are another great overall exercise — if they don’t hurt. Squats strengthen the entire leg and move the body in a way that makes it easier to do daily activities. (Think of picking up a laundry basket or bending down to talk to a small child.) However, some people might not be able to tolerate squats. And, it’s important to get advice on proper technique. Doing squats incorrectly can cause problems in the hips, ankles and low back.
Here are some great exercises for your knees:
Sit on the edge of a chair or lie down with your knee straight. Tighten the muscle on top of your thigh by straightening your knee as much as you can. Place your hand on top of your thigh to feel the muscle tighten. Hold the muscle tight for a count of 5. Relax and repeat 5-10 times. Try to do the exercise with each leg several times throughout the day.
Straight Leg Raise:
Lie flat on your back on either a bed or on the floor. Bend one knee, placing your foot flat on the bed. (This helps to stabilize your pelvis and protects your lower back.) Straighten the other knee. Tighten the muscle on the top of the thigh of the straight leg and slowly raise the entire leg 12 to 18 inches off the bed. Slowly lower the leg and relax. This exercise should only be done if you can keep the small of your back pressed against the bed with the abdominal muscles gently tightened. Repeat this exercise until you can do it 10 times, and then progress to doing 3 sets of 10 repetitions with a 1 to 2 minute rest between sets. This will improve its strength. Repeat with the other leg. Remember to bend the opposite knee, placing the foot flat on the bed. This exercise is isometric at the knee, but not at the hip
Lie on your back resting your heel on the bed, or sit at the edge of your chair, resting your heel on the floor. Bend the knee slightly. Dig your heel down into the bed or the floor squeezing it toward you, but don’t allow it to move. You should be able to feel the muscles on the back of your thigh tightening. Hold for a count of 5. Repeat 5-10 times with each leg several times throughout the day.
Be sure to breathe.
Seated Combination Quadriceps/Hamstring Set:
Seated in your chair, cross your right ankle over your left. Your left foot is flat on the floor. Push back with your right ankle against your left. You can feel the muscle on the back of your right thigh tighten. Add a forward press with the left ankle against the right, and you will feel the muscle on the top of your left thigh tighten as well. Hold for a count of 5.
Be sure to breathe.
Repeat several times, and then switch legs.
PRECAUTION: Avoid this exercise if it aggravates your knee pain.
Short Arc Quadriceps:
Although this exercise is not completely isometric, it is often tolerated well when the knee is painful because the knee is exercised only in a small part of its range of motion. Lie on your back, and put a 1-2 pound coffee can or a rolled up towel bolster measuring 3 to 6 inches in diameter under your knee. Straighten the knee. You will feel your knee pushing down into the bolster as your heel lifts up and the quadriceps muscle on the front of your thigh tightens. Hold for a count of 5. Relax. Repeat several times with each leg.