- Sunshine Coast Rehabilitation & Exercise Physiology
What is knee osteoarthritis? And how can we best manage it?
Knee osteoarthritis (OA) is a common condition in Australia, with an estimated 1 in 11 Australians affected. The prevalence of knee OA increases with age, with the highest occurrence seen in people over the age of 65, women being more likely affected than men.
What causes knee OA?
Knee OA is caused by the breakdown of cartilage in the knee joint. Cartilage is a smooth tissue that covers the ends of bones, allowing them to move smoothly against each other. When the cartilage breaks down, the bones in the joint can rub against each other, causing pain and stiffness. The breakdown of cartilage can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
• Age: as we age, our cartilage can become weaker and more susceptible to damage.
• Obesity: excess weight can place extra stress on the knee joint, leading to cartilage damage.
• Injuries: injuries to the knee joint, such as torn meniscus or ligament can increase the risk of developing knee OA.
• Genetics: some people may be more genetically predisposed to developing knee OA than others due to family history.
What are common symptoms?
The symptoms of knee OA can vary from person to person but the more common include:
• Pain in the joint, especially when walking, climbing stairs, or standing long periods.
• Stiffness in the knee joint, especially after sitting for long periods.
• Swelling and tenderness
• A cracking sound when moving the joint
• Reduced range of motion
How do we best manage knee OA?
While knee OA cannot be cured, it can be managed through a variety of lifestyle changes and treatments. Some effective management strategies include:
• Exercise: regular exercise can help improve symptoms. It is an essential component of managing knee OA as it can help improve strength, flexibility, and range of motion while also reducing pain and inflammation. Low- impact exercises such as walking, cycling and swimming are recommended.
• Weight management: Reducing body weight can help reduce stress on the knee joint and improve symptoms.
• Medications: over the counter pain relievers such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help manage pain and inflammation.
• Exercise Physiology: A therapist can develop a personalised exercise program for you to help increase strength and flexibility.
• Injections: Corticosteroid or hyaluronic acid injections can be used to reduce pain and inflammation.
Tips on exercise prescription
In addition to the low- impact exercises mentioned above, incorporating isolation exercises can also help increase knee strength and reduce pain. Here are 5 tips of specific exercises that can be included in a gym program for knee OA:
1) Leg press
2) Leg extensions
3) Sit to stands on a chair or box
4) Split squats
5) Crab walks
Remember to start with a low intensity and gradually increase as tolerated. It’s also important to consult with an exercise physiologist or physiotherapist to ensure that these exercises are appropriate for you and to receive proper instructions on how to perform them safely and most effectively.
If you yourself are looking for more guidance, or know someone who is in need of help, please contact our team and we will be happy to help you build stronger knees to assist pain and improve Quality of Life!