Knee Osteoarthritis (Knee OA) is the leading cause of knee pain in the elderly population. With our ageing population, chronic knee pain is becoming a serious problem for many. Clinically, Knee OA is characterised by the following –
- Knee pain & stiffness
- Functional limitations due to pain
- Typically seen in those over 50 years old.
Previous knee injury: While trauma doesn’t directly cause degeneration to the knee joint itself, it does result in a chronic, abnormal loading through the knee – which is the key feature here.
Comorbidities – obesity, diabetes: Systemic inflammation has been recently identified as a contributor of Knee OA, where body fat releases inflammatory chemicals that contribute to joint damage. Being overweight or obese contributes to the development of OA through increased joint load and inflammatory mechanisms.
Older age: Your risk of Knee OA increases if you are over 50 years of age.
Reduced strength: a lack of fitness and general strength also increases your risk.
Risk Factors not Associated with the Risk of Knee OA:
If I’m in pain, do I continue to exercise?
Although pain and functional limitations present challenges to physical activity among individuals with arthritis, regular exercise is essential for managing these conditions.
Specifically, exercise reduces pain, maintains muscle strength around affected joints, reduces joint stiffness, prevents functional decline, and improves quality of life.
Exercise can be effective in relieving symptoms as pain medication and anti-inflammatory drugs but has fewer side effects.
Things to Remember:
- Avoid strenuous exercises during acute flares and periods of inflammation. However, it is appropriate to gently move joints through their full range of motion during these periods.
- Allow ample amount of time to warm up at a low intensity level to minimise pain.
- Progression in duration of activity should be emphasised over increased intensity.
- There maybe a little bit of soreness in the arthritic joint during exercise – this is normal and does not mean that the arthritis is getting worse. However, if there is significant pain or swelling during or after exercise then the exercise program may need to be revised.
- The benefits of exercise are lost if the exercise stops, so use strategies that will help with program continuation like: keeping a log book, setting achievable goals, seeking support from a partner, family or friends, and varying the exercise program assist with patient’s maintaining a consistent exercise regime.
- Joint range may be restricted due to arthritic changes in the joint and swelling. It is important those with arthritis don’t push through those restrictions, over time the range of motion should gradually be increased by working to the full extent of range tolerated
The Best Types of Exercises to Assist with Knee OA.
Research shows that exercise can help people with a wide range of arthritic severity and pain. It is important people with arthritis choose a type of exercise that they enjoy and that can be easily incorporated into their daily life.
Exercise Right, the voice of Exercise & Sports Science Australia, recommends aiming to exercise 4 to 5 times a week for at least 30 minutes.
Strength training: The thigh, hip and calf muscles, which are important for daily function, are often weak in people with arthritis. Resistance can be applied with weights, elastic tubing or body weight. Start lightly completing 2-5 repetitions using pain threshold as an index of intensity, as they improve gradually increase to 10-12 repetitions of an exercise.
Aerobic exercise: Activities may include walking, cycling, using a rowing machine or a seated stepper. High-impact exercises such as jogging should be avoided because it places high loading on the affected joints.
Aquatic (water) exercise: Those with severe arthritis may find aquatic exercise useful, as the weightlessness minimises the load on your joints.
Other types of exercises: Tai chi, balance exercises and stretching will improve flexibility and the range of motion of affected joints. It is important to always stretch within a pain-free range of motion.
Who to talk to?
Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP)
If you have arthritis and you’re thinking about incorporating exercise into your daily life, it’s recommended you consult an Accredited Exercise Physiologist for a tailored exercise plan that is safe for your individual needs.
If you have arthritis and are experiencing pain, a Physio can help gently mobilise the tissues to improve pain and function.
From the desk of Thrive Exercise Physiologist, Emmery Claire.
If you would like to know more about how a custom program can help you or a family member who is stuggling with Knee OA or any other joint pain, contact us to learn more: 9478 3869