​Osteoarthritis (OA), also known as Degenerative Joint Disease, is a very common cause of knee pain in the middle to older age group. It is a 'wear and tear' joint condition whereby the cartilage lining the joint surfaces has/is being worn out over many years of use.

With less cartilage lining the joint surfaces, bones tend to rub directly over each other as the joint moves. This can lead to knee pain, swelling, stiffness as well as disability and clicking noises. - affecting your day-to-day activities.

Risk Factors for Knee Osteoarthritis  

Factors that increases a person's risk of knee osteoarthritis include:

  • Being excessively overweight
  • Having poor alignment in the lower limb bones
  • Having a previous knee injury such as ligament damage or fractures
  • Inflexibility in muscles
  • Wrong exercise techniques 

These can cause a part of or the entire knee joint being overloaded, leading to knee osteoarthritis.  

Tips to Ease Knee Pain 

  1. Use a heat pack when your knee feels stiff. Do NOT use a heat pack when your joint feels warm and swollen.
  2. When your knee feels warm and swollen, use a cold pack to reduce the swelling.
  3. If you are overwight, lose weight to reduce the load and stress exerted on your knee.
  4. Keep you knee strong and flexible by exercising regularly and correctly.
  5. If you experiece a flare up, see a doctor and rest your knee. Resume exercising once the pain subsides.

Exercises to Improve Knee Movement, Strength & Flexibility

Before exercising, remember to stretch: hold for 20 to 30secs and repeat 5 times for each of the exercises listed below.

Stretching Exercises

Hamstring stretch: Get into a long sitting position, and lean forward until you feel a stretch at the back of your thigh. Avoid bending your knee for this exercise.

Alternatively, you can perform this stretch standing up by placing 1 foot on a stool and lean forward.

Calf stretch: Stand facing a wall with your palms on the wall. Position one leg behind the other, keeping the toes pointing forward. Bend the front knee, keeping the hind leg straight with both heels on the floor. You should feel a stretch in the calf. Hold for 20 to 30secs. Do not raise your heel off the floor or poit your toes sideways.

Quadricep stretch: Stad tall with one hand supported on a chair. Bend your leg back and hold your ankle with the other hand. Pull your heel towards your buttock, feeling a good stretch in the front of your thigh. Hold for 20 to 30secs before lowering it down. Remember to keep your knees close together when doing the stretch.

Strengthening Exercises

Hold for 10secs, repeat 10 times and perform 2 to 4 sets for each exercise.

Straight leg raise: Lie on your back with one knee bent. Elevate the other leg 6 to 10 inches off the ground/bed. Hold the position for 10secs ad gently lower it down.

Hip abduction: Lie on your side with the bottom leg bent. Keep the upper leg straight and inline with the body. Raise the leg above horizontally and hold for 10secs before putting it down.

Hip extesion: Lie on your stomach. Raise one leg, keeping both your knees straight. Hold for 10secs before putting down your raised leg.

Wall squats: Stand with your back against a wall. Take 1 to 2 steps forward, slowly lower yourself down the wall, keeping your back straight and knees behid your toes. Remember to your knees shoulder width apart and toes pointing forward. Hold the position for 10secs. Do not bend your knees over your toes or keep your knees pointing inwards.

Seated knee extension: Sit over the edge of the bed/chair, slowly straighten one knee, hold the position for 10secs before lowering it down.

Heel raises: Stand with your hand supported on a chair, slowly raise both heels (by tip-toeing) off the ground, hold for 10secs before lowering them down.

In addition to these exercises, you can embark on low-impact activities such as taichi, swimming or brisk walking.

Doing water aerobics (exercises in the pool) is also a great way of working your muscles without putting undue stress on knee joints. Ensure that the water level is at least past your waist height.

Taichi serves as an excellent way to help improve osteoarthritic knees by increasing flexibility, strength as well as muscle control.

If you think you have knee osteoarthritis and would like to learn more exercises to cope with your condition, approach your doctor for a physiotherapy referral.