Osteoarthritis of the knee causes pain, stiffness, and swelling that can make it hard to get up and move. However, exercise is one of the best things you can do for your knees if you have arthritis. There are different types of exercise that can reduce pain and even prevent some further damage to the joints.
What is Osteoarthritis of the Knee?
Osteoarthritis of the knee is a common condition in people over 50. Knees are the largest joints in your body, and they work hard to support your weight and make moving possible. There is cartilage around the ends of the bones that meet at your knee joint: the femur, tibia, and knee cap or patella. The cartilage is smooth and resilient, cushioning the bones and protecting them. This cartilage meets up with the meniscus, which is the shock absorbing cartilage of the knee that helps keep it stable. When the cartilage is worn away over time, the bones in the knee come into contact and rub against each other. This can create painful bone spurs that contribute to swelling and stiffness.
How does exercise help?
Exercise can help with osteoarthritis in several different ways, and there are exercises for each.
1. Strengthen muscles around the joint. This helps reduce the pressure on your knees by distributing some of the work they do to adjacent muscles like your quadriceps. Leg lifts and half squats using the wall for support are good examples of strengthening exercises that can help arthritis pain.
2. Increase flexibility. Stretching exercises help maintain the full range of motion of your knee. Try gentle yoga that is designed for people with arthritis. Stretches for hamstrings and the tendons in your knees are also useful. Start slowly and don’t overdo it.
3. Make an impact. Aerobic exercise, low or high impact, can be beneficial for osteoarthritis of the knee. These exercises bring increased blood circulation, more oxygen, and even strengthen cartilage through healthy use of the body.
People with severe arthritis should not risk further injury through strenuous exercise. Always ask your doctor before starting a new exercise program. But in almost every case, walking is a good place to start. Walking can strengthen and provide aerobic stimulation. Swimming is even lower-impact and excellent for strengthening muscles and improving flexibility.
Other benefits of exercise such as increased endorphins and serotonin can be especially helpful to those living with painful conditions like osteoarthritis. Getting up and moving are good first steps to feeling better. Depression can go hand in hand with pain, especially if it keeps you from being with other people and getting out to enjoy your regular activities. Exercise, in whatever form feels best to you, is a great way to make steps towards better health.
Arthritis of the knee and other joints may not be curable, but it is definitely treatable. If you are living with the pain of arthritis, an orthopedic physician can help. Call Orthopaedic Associates of Central Maryland at (410) 644-1880 to find out what can be done to help your joints.