Knee osteoarthritis is the leading cause of knee pain in adults. 90% of all knee replacement surgeries are due to late-stage osteoarthritis. By 80-89 years old, 10% of people have undergone a knee replacement surgery.
Knee osteoarthritis can have many causes, some of which are: natural wear and tear from aging, previous injuries, obesity, and weakness in lower extremity musculature. Due to these causes, the articular cartilage in your knee can wear away. The articular cartilage is like a cushion that prevents bone on bone contact during movement. When this cartilage is worn away it leaves no barrier to prevent the bone-on-bone contact in the knee, and severe pain is the result
So, you may ask, “what are some of the things I can do to potentially avoid knee surgery due to knee osteoarthritis?” Certain risk factors are preventable:
Although a touchy subject, maintaining a healthy weight is an important way to prevent knee pain and ultimately a knee replacement. The force that you place on your joints can be up to 6 times your weight. So even losing even 15 pounds could help reduce a significant load on your knees’ daily activities. If losing weight has been difficult, consulting a dietician about a diet plan is a good start to losing weight. Although exercise is extremely important for health reasons including reducing knee pain and for weight loss, daily caloric intake is the most important factor in terms of losing weight.
When talking about knee pain, it is important to mention the importance of having strong lower extremity musculature. The two most important muscles to keep strong in relation to knee pain are your quads (the muscles on the front of your thigh) and your hamstrings (the muscles on the back of your thigh). When performing weight bearing activities, the stronger the lower extremity muscles are, the more shock they are able to absorb and the more they can stabilize the joint. This will help prevent excessive load being transferred directly to the knee joints. Stretching is also very important to having well-balanced knee musculature. Having strong and well balanced muscles can help prevent awkward compensatory walking patterns and poor mechanics during other daily activities that will place more stress on the knee.
So, you may be thinking, all this is great info, but what specifically can I do? Now, I will go into specific exercises and stretches that can help prevent knee pain. The information for exercises I will be providing is more geared towards individuals whose pain isn’t extreme and are still relatively mobile, able to walk, able to bend knees slightly during weight bearing, and able to perform some activities of daily living.
A great exercise to start out with that will help with lower extremity strength and control is a bilateral dumbbell squat. The weight you should use depends on how strong your lower extremity musculature is currently. If you are unsure if you are able to do the squat with weight, attempt squats without weight first, and if you are not relatively fatigued by your 6th rep, then you can slowly increase weight to comfort. Repeat this for 8 total reps. If you feel unsure about your ability to balance during a squat this exercise might not be appropriate.
How to do the Bilateral Dumbbell Squat:
The quad and hamstrings can often become tight due to a variety of factors. Stretching is very important to maintain proper muscle length and avoid imbalance in knee musculature.
How to do the Hamstring Stretch:
The quadriceps muscles help stabilize the knee and is imperative in proper knee function. This exercise combines a stretch of the quads with the hip flexors to ensure flexibility across both joints.
How to do the Quad/Hip Flexor Stretch:
These are a great exercise to help build quad and hip flexor strength. This also is an easier exercise to perform for the quads than dumbbell mini squats. Do this for 8-12 total reps. Adding ankle weights might be necessary to fatigue at the appropriate amount of reps for certain individuals.
How to do the Straight Leg Raise:
This last exercise is for individuals who have lost range of motion when bending or straightening the knee. This exercise can also be used for individuals who are worried they may start to lose range of motion in the knee.
How to Do Heel Slides:
Some tips for Heel Slides:
Often knee replacement surgery can be avoided by weight loss, exercise, strengthening, and stretching.
Knee osteoarthritis can be debilitating, but we are here to help! If you have specific questions about your knee pain, please contact us at Serenity Medical Centers at 512-646-2743,.