7 Exercises To Help Ease Knee Pain
Did you know that around 1 in 5 adults (18.2%) over 45 years of age in England has osteoarthritis of the knee? The knee is one of the most common joints affected by arthritis, and it occurs when the cartilage (a tough, flexible tissue which works as a shock absorber by covering the surface of joints to help them move smoothly) begins to wear away.
As the cartilage wears away, the bones lose their cushioning and begin to rub together, which can cause pain, stiffness and loss of mobility. If the pain becomes severe, some people may have knee replacement surgery. Around 100,000 knee replacements are carried out each year in the UK.
Whilst there is no cure for arthritis, there are things you can do to decrease pain and increase your quality of life. One of the most impactful things you can do is exercise. Regular exercise strengthens muscles, and stronger muscles are better able to support the joints so there is less weight put on the joint itself. Exercise can also help release synovial fluid. This is a thick liquid which is stored in the cartilage and, when released, helps to lubricate and nourish it to keep it healthy. Exercise also helps promote a healthy weight, which further takes pressure off the joints.
If you are living with osteoarthritis of the knee, there are multiple accessible exercises you can do to strengthen the different muscles in the leg to help support and stabilise your knee joints. We’ve rounded up 7 effective and easy leg exercises which you can do in the comfort of your own home.
1. Seated knee extensions
You don’t need to run 10k to get a good work out - in fact, you don’t even have to stand up! Seated knee extensions are great for strengthening the knee and the muscles in your front thigh. This exercise can improve stability and decrease knee pain. You can do this exercise whilst seated on a chair, sofa or even on your bed.
To begin, sit up tall with a straight back, knees bent, hands on your thighs and feet flat on the floor. Slowly and gently, begin to straighten the left knee and try to hold it out straight for five seconds before slowly moving it back down and repeat on the right. Make sure your feet are flexed and your lifted leg is as straight as feels right for you - don’t worry if it doesn’t go completely straight, and don’t try to force it if it feels painful. You may find it helpful to use your hands to hold onto the lifted leg, to help support it.
2. Lying leg raises
For this exercise, you’ll be lying flat on your back on a bed or on the floor. Have your legs down with toes pointed at the ceiling, and have your arms by your sides. Keeping your leg straight, raise it slowly for several inches, hold for five seconds, and then slowly lower.
Try to have a neutral spine, which means pressing your lower back into the floor so your back remains straight. Repeat this exercise on the other leg. Try to do 5x reps on each side to start with. If you notice any knee pain, try lowering your leg or discontinuing with the exercise. Don’t worry about how high the leg gets - just go at your own pace.
3. Lying pillow squeeze
This is a great exercise for gently strengthening your inner thigh muscles. Begin by lying on your back, knees bent, with a pillow between your knees. Squeeze your knees together, squishing the pillow and tightening the muscles. Hold for 5 seconds, and then release. Repeat ten times. Make sure to listen to your body and ease off if you experience any pain. If you prefer, you can also do this exercise whilst seated in a chair with your feet on the floor.
4. Assisted sit to stands
This is an exercise designed to make it easier for you to stand up when sitting down. To begin, place two pillows or cushions on a chair and sit on them so you’re a little raised up from the seat. Sit with your back straight and feet on the floor.
Slowly, use your leg muscles to raise yourself into a standing position, keeping your knees bent as long as possible and making sure your bent knees point over your toes and that your feet are positioned under your knees. Once you reach standing, slowly lower yourself back down using your legs. You can keep your arms loose to the side or crossed. If it feels challenging, you can add more pillows or use the armests to help pull you up. Repeat this 5-10 times.
5. Assisted calf stretch
Calf stretches can improve flexibility and improve knee pain. Hold onto a chair, table, wall or even a tree. Bend your right leg, making sure your knee is aligned with your toes, and step the left one back a few feet.
Slowly straighten your left leg and press your left heel towards the floor, so you can feel a stretch. Hold for about 20 seconds, and then repeat on the other leg.
6. Step up
This exercise can help strengthen your knees so that it’s easier to walk up stairs or other inclines. You can do this using the bottom step of your stairs, an outdoor step, or a steady box.
Begin standing up straight, bend and put your left leg on the step, then follow with the right, then step your left foot down, and follow with the right. Repeat on the other side. Try and repeat 9 times. Do be mindful of your knees, take your time and stop if you feel any pain. Hold onto a wall or bannister if you’re struggling with balance.
7. Assisted quad strengtheners
You can do this exercise sitting on a yoga mat, on a sofa or on a bed. Get a rolled up towel, blanket or bolster to elevate the leg. Push down on the towel to straighten your knee, flex your foot and point your toes towards you, so that your heel is elevated and you can feel your calf muscles stretch.
Hold this position for five seconds, then release. Repeat 10 times, then switch to the other leg.
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