If you are living with knee pain you may be thinking, “Exercise is the last thing I feel like doing.” However, most people with osteoarthritis of the knees can benefit from regular exercise. Having strong, flexible muscles is one of the best ways to keep knees healthy and prevent further injury. It’s just a matter of learning the right exercises and performing them correctly.
Note: Prior to starting a new exercise routine always check with your Doctor or Physical Therapist to see if these exercises are appropriate for you.
- It’s OK to start slowly. We all have to start somewhere and building muscle takes time. Be patient with the process and with time you’ll increase your repetitions, weights and progressions.
- Listen to your body. Don’t ignore pain. If something doesn’t feel right find an alternative movement such as focusing on stability and balance before jumping into the strength work.
- Don’t overdo it. It is normal to feel some muscle soreness and stiffness but if the pain is so severe that it is difficult to move, then you have overdone your exercise.
For people with knee arthritis these are 4 target muscle groups for stretching:
- Hamstrings (in the back of the thighs) – Supine Leg Raise
- Quadriceps (in the front of the thighs) – Standing Quadricep Stretch
- Hip flexors (at the front of the hips) – Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
- Calf muscles (lower leg muscles)- Standing Calf Muscle Stretch
- Banded Walks-–Carefully step both feet into a resistance band and place it about 2 inches above the knees. In a semi- squat position, keeping your gaze up and take 5-10 steps to the right then repeat to the left. Make sure to stay in that semi squat position the whole time, keep your knees out and tension on the band. Repeat for 5 total sets.
- Reverse Slide– Start with holding a sturdy chair for balance. Think of these as a reverse sliding lunge. If you are on a carpet use a paper plate under the foot sliding back into the lunge position or use a small towel if on a wood surface. Keep your chest up and core engaged as you slide the back leg into the reverse lunge position. Both front and back knees should be bent, only going as far as is comfortable. Next, drive off your front leg back into the standing position. Start with 5-8 repetitions on one side then switch legs.
- Step Ups– Using a sturdy step or Reebok Stepper, start on the lowest piece only a 3-4 inches from the ground. Alternate stepping up and down with the right and left foot so that you are not favoring one side over the other. This will help with ankle and knee stability as well as balance. Start with 30 second to a min each set and build up from there.
- Wall Sits- Leaning back against the wall, step your feet forward a couple steps in front of you. Slide your back down the wall, keeping your feet flat. Your knees should be in line with your shins and not protruding forward over the toes. Slide your back down until your thighs are almost parallel to the floor. Keep your whole back and hips pressed against the wall and hold this position for 10-15 seconds. You should feel the burn in your quads! Repeat 6-8 sets of 10-15 second holds. Try building up to 30 seconds or more 🙂
- Standing Hamstring Curls- Start by standing straight with the knees only 1–2 inches apart. Hold on to a sturdy chair or a stable countertop for balance. Slowly bend one knee behind the body, lifting the heel off the floor while keeping the thighs aligned. Continue to lift the heel in a smooth motion until the knee bend reaches a 90-degree angle. Keep the straight leg slightly bent to avoid locking it. Hold the bent leg up for 5 seconds and then slowly lower it to the floor in a controlled movement. Repeat 2-3 times with the same leg. Switch sides and repeat.
- Glute Bridges- Using a yoga mat, lying on your back with both knees bent, feet hip-width apart. Squeeze your glutes and lift your hips up until they are in line with your thighs and abdomen. Hold in the top of the bridge position for just a few seconds, squeezing your glutes before lowering down. Try pointing your toes up, and put weight into your heels. This will increase the work on your hamstrings and glutes. Lower the hips down just to tap before lifting again. Perform 2-3 sets of 10 reps.