4 Strengthening Exercises to Help Osteoarthritis Pain

Our joints are protected by a resilient elastic tissue called cartilage. It is because of the cartilage our joints are able to flex, straighten and absorb shock while walking, running and exercising. Osteoarthritis results in joints when the cartilage breaks down, the bones rub together and cause joint swelling, pain, and stiffness. Age, general wear and tear, trauma, obesity, injury and poor nutrition are some of the causes of cartilage loss.

Sometimes, the chronic knee pain and inflammation do not go away. When this happens, it could be the result of osteoarthritis in the knee joint. Arthritis, as a disease, might seem complicated because it comes in different forms and affects people in different ways, but there is one core treatment that is common for all forms of arthritis: strengthening exercises. Gentle strengthening exercises help repair cartilage, maintain bone strength, control weight and reduce muscle inflammation. Low-impact strengthening exercises also help reduce fatigue and elevate mood.

For people suffering from knee arthritis, there are four target muscle groups for strengthening:

  • Quadriceps
  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Calf muscles

Our goal with these four strengthening exercises is to help people suffering from osteoarthritis to reduce pain, increase flexibility, increase strength, and combat fatigue. All these exercises can be done at home and don't require special equipment.

Wall Sit, Wall Slides Tight or weak quadriceps can lead to misalignment of the kneecap and can increase the risk of knee and hip injuries. The only thing you need for this exercise is a clear space of wall. To get started, place your feet shoulder-width apart and rest your back against the wall. Slowly slide down the wall, bending your knees about 30 degrees. Keep your lower back pressed against the wall and keep sliding down until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Ensure that your knees are directly above the ankles. Hold for 15 to 20 seconds and slowly straighten up. Repeat this exercise 4-6 times. Over time, increase the hold period until you can hold for 1 minute at a time.

Hamstring Curl The hamstrings are posterior thigh muscles located behind the knees. The hamstring strengthening exercises ensure that these muscles remain flexible and strong, which in turn helps the legs, knees, back, and hips function smoothly. This exercise can be done in two ways:

  1. Stand with your knees straight. Lift your foot and slowly flex one knee up. Hold for 5-10 seconds, then lower slowly. Switch legs and repeat 12-15 times.
  2. Lie on your stomach with your knees straight. If you feel uncomfortable, roll up a towel and put it under your leg just above your kneecap. Slowly bend your one knee by lifting the foot towards your hips. Switch legs and repeat 8-10 times.

Clamshells The clamshell exercise, also used by some therapists, reduces knee and lower back pain and strengthens the core and glutes to help support the knee. To do this strengthening exercise, lie on your side with your hip and knees slightly bent. Keeping your feet together, lift the top knee up to slowly open the clamshell. You will feel your hips rotate, but make sure your core and pelvis remain stable and your hips don’t roll backward. Hold for 3-4 seconds and slowly close the clamshell. Repeat 6-8 times and roll to the opposite side.

Seated Calf Raise Weak calves can put stress on the heel cord and break down the fibers that make up the tendon. Because we use calf muscles in everyday activities, such as walking or climbing stairs, you need to exercise them to keep them strong and flexible. To do this exercise, sit on a sturdy chair with feet flat on the floor and knees bent at right angle. Place your hands on the thighs to gently press your toes into the floor as you raise your heels as high as possible by extending the ankles. Hold for 4-5 seconds and slowly lower your heels. Repeat this exercise 10-15 times.

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