• Dr. Elaine Screaton DC

Exercises for Osteoarthritis of the Knee

My post last week detailed Osteoarthritis of the Knee. As you may recall, one of the most evidence based recommendations is exercise for managing symptoms. This post will detail some of those exercises to help reduce pain and increase function for knee osteoarthritis. Keep in mind, it is always best prior to starting any exercise program to check with your healthcare provider to ensure they are safe for you.

The KEY to exercising with OA is to monitor pain levels during and after exercise. No more than 5/10 pain is permitted, 0-2/10 is perfectly safe, and 2-5/10 is acceptable pain levels. If your pain exceeds 5/10 pain at any point during or after exercise, best to dial it back for next session.

Hip Abduction:

This is best done standing, ideally supported with your hands on a wall or countertop (something sturdy- unlike this video). The important part of this exercise is to use your butt muscles (if you have a pant seam, the muscle that should be working is the muscle just behind the pant seam). No need to raise the leg higher than this video demonstrates, but perform 2 sets of 10 repetitions.

Seated Knee Extension:

Perform this exercise seated. Begin with your knee bent to 90 degrees. Then, engage the quad muscles (on the front of the thigh) to straighten the knee as much as possible. Return slowly back to the starting position. Perform 10 reps 2x/day. To increase resistance with the band simply make the band more taught prior to starting the rep, or increase the difficulty of the resistance band itself.

Seated Knee Flexion:

Perform this exercise seated. Begin with the knee bent to about 90 degrees. Engaging the muscles on the back of the thigh, bend your knee thinking of pulling from the heel. Slowly return to your starting position. Repeat 10reps 2x/day. To increase resistance with the band simply make the band more taught prior to starting the rep, or increase the difficulty of the resistance band itself.

Sit to Stand (Chair Squat):

This is a functional exercise, and key to maintaining good function at home. Using a sturdy chair, begin with feet hip width apart, and feet firmly planted on the floor. The beginner progression to this exercise is to have your hands on your thighs, and to stand up from seated squeezing your butt muscles and pressing your hands into your thighs as you stand up. If this is too easy, then progress to crossing your arms in front of your chest before standing up. Once standing, slowly lower back to the chair. Repeat 15reps 2x/day.

Step Ups:

To perform this exercise, use either a bottom step of your stairs at home, or a sturdy exercise step. Begin with feet hip width apart. Place one foot on to the step, and drive through your heel as you squeeze through your butt to bring the opposite foot to rest on the step. This exercise if done properly should cause you to feel the muscles in the buttock working, while the muscles in the thigh and near the near should be fairly relaxed. Perform this exercise near a wall or railing for support. Perform 2 sets of 10 reps on each side daily.

As you can see, many of the exercises for knee OA are targeting the areas that tend to become weak and painful. The goal of these exercises is to maintain strength and mobility, and enable good function around the home. Many of these exercises also target muscles around the hip, which if functioning well can take pressure off of the knee.

Again, always seek guidance from your health care provider prior to starting any exercise program.

Dr. Elaine Screaton (DC, BSc) is a Chiropractor in NW Calgary currently practicing at Synergea Family Health Centre in Calgary, AB.


© 2019 Dr Elaine Screaton

Tel: 403-247-2947

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