Exercises for arthritis are one of the most effective ways of reducing the pain, stiffness and disability so often associated with knee arthritis. For the knee to be able to work properly it needs to be able to fully bend and straighten and have good muscle strength, control and balance. All of these tend to be affected by knee arthritis.
Arthritis is a common condition, usually affecting people over the age of 65. In the US, it is the leading cause of disability. People are often looking for a quick cure for their arthritis, but unfortunately there is no such thing. There are however a number of treatment options that can make a big difference. Exercises for arthritis are one of the most important of these, and have been shown to be one of the most effective.
Here we will concentrate on movement exercises to increase how much you can bend and straighten your knee and a balance exercise for arthritis. For strengthening and more advanced exercises for arthritis, visit the other sections.
These movement exercises for arthritis are a great way to maintain and improve the mobility of the knee. It is common for the knee to get stiff with arthritis.
These exercises for arthritis will help to prevent this from happening and help you regain movement if the knee is already getting stiff.
Intro: One of the most simple yet effective exercises for arthritis to do first thing in the morning to loosen your knee up before you get up – morning stiffness is a classic feature of knee arthritis.
Starting position: Lying flat on your back or sitting up. Leg and knee straight out on a bed or along the floor.
Action: Slide your heel towards your bottom as far as you comfortably can, bending your hip and knee. Keep your heel on the bed/floor. Hold for 3-5 secs and slowly return to starting position
Repetition: Repeat 10-30 times, twice a day. Gradually aim to bend your knee a little more each time
Progression: Carry out the exercise as above but when you’ve bent your knee as much as you can hook a towel over the ankle and pull it towards you to help the knee bend further – you can achieve the same effect by hooking your opposite foot over the ankle and pushing with that leg to gain more knee bend
Variations: Place a smooth board or a plastic bag underneath your foot so you have a slippery surface making it easier to move
Intro: A must anytime you are sitting down for more than twenty minutes as it prevents stiffness setting in and the associated discomfort on first standing up. It helps increase mobility in the knee and also strengthens the knee at the same time
Starting position: Sitting on a firm chair with your knee bent and your foot on the floor
Action: Lift your foot up and straighten your knee as much as possible. Hold for 3-5 secs and slowly lower your leg down to the floor. Then slide your foot back as far as you can and return to starting position. Do all this in one fluid motion.
Repeat: 10-25 times, twice a day
Progression: 1) To improve strength: Strengthen further by adding a weight either by wearing a shoe or ankle weights
2) To improve flexion
a) Hook your other foot around the front of the ankle and push backwards with it to further bend your knee
b) Once you have slid your heel back as far as you can, lift your bottom up slightly using your arms and slide your bottom forwards keeping your foot still. You will find this makes your knee bend even more
Intro: The knee needs to be able to twist slightly
to move properly and this rotation movement is often one of the first
things lost with arthritis. Regain it with this exercise for arthritis
Starting Position: Sit in a firm chair, feet approx 6 inches apart, knees together
Action: Turn your feet inwards as far as you can and then outwards
Repetition: Spend a few minutes doing this twice a day
Good balance is really important to prevent knee injuries, and is often reduced with arthritis. As a quick test to see whether you would benefit from balance exercises for arthritis, try standing on one leg with your eyes closed. If you can’t do it for one minute, you would benefit from this exercise. This exercise for arthritis helps your body learn the subtle adjustments needed for good balance.
Starting position: Standing
Action: Lift up your good leg and stand on one leg for as long as you can
Repetition: Spend five minutes doing this 2x daily
Progression: 1) Close your eyes
2) Throw and catch a ball – eyes open!
3) Slowly bend and straighten your knee a small amount
These exercises for arthritis are a great place to start. It can also really help to do strengthening exercises to build up the knee muscles and reduce the force going through the knee joint.
Once these exercises for arthritis become easy, you can progress on to more advanced exercises.