Osteoarthritis - Exercises and Physiotherapy

What is arthritis?

Arthritis refers to joint pain or inflammation, and is an umbrella term for more than 100 types of joint-related conditions. The most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis, on the other hand, is a condition where the cartilage between joints wears away over time. It is thus commonly also known as wear-and-tear arthritis. Without the natural lubricant and cushion that the cartilage provides, joints rub against one another, causing common symptoms such as cracking or grinding noise with movement, joint pain and stiffness that typically occur after activity, as well as swelling of the affected areas.

Osteoarthritis can occur in joints all over the body, but is mostly seen in weight-bearing joints, with the hips and knees most commonly affected. Knee osteoarthritis is most common in women aged above 45, with other factors such as excess weight, history of knee injuries and heredity mutations increasing the risk of developing the condition.

How do I know if I have osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis symptoms often develop slowly and worsen over time. If you are experiencing persistent and worsening knee pain, stiffness or tenderness, do make an appointment with your clinic. Osteoarthritis can be diagnosed based by a doctor’s examination of the symptoms presented, and X-rays, if necessary, can be used to confirm osteoarthritis.

Treatment for osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis can definitely be painful and debilitating, often sidelining those with the condition from their favourite sports or activities. Medication, often NSAIDS, might be required to alleviate pain. Further, there is often little one can do (except surgery) to reverse the physical damage caused by osteoarthritis.

Don’t lose hope however! Current treatment plans for osteoarthritis are effective in reducing pain and regaining mobility. Your doctor will probably refer you to physiotherapy. Rehabilitation plans often comprise specific exercises that target an increased lower limb range of motion, through both stretching and strengthening. Since tight and/or weak lower limb muscles are common contributors to knee osteoarthritis, it would be coherent to target these regions in recovery. Attached at the end of this article are some great exercises to combat knee pain.

While the exercises are simple to follow and can be easily found online, optimal results are achieved through a combination of self-care and working closely with a physiotherapist. This is especially important in the early stages of recovery. After carefully assessing your physical state as well as your recovery needs, your physiotherapist will prescribe and tailor the exercises to ensure that the recovery process is both gradual and targeted. Your physiotherapist will also be able to correct your form and posture, ensuring that the exercises are done safely and correctly, such that you will in no time get back to your daily activities.

In addition, lifestyle tweaks might be suggested after your physiotherapist understands you better. For example, your physiotherapist might recommend substituting weight-bearing or high-impact activities such as weightlifting or basketball with lower-impact exercises like swimming or cycling instead, or propose a weight-loss programme if you are carrying excess weight.

Do reach out to us for our team of well-qualified physiotherapists to help you better.

Exercises that combat knee osteoarthritis:

Calf stretch
Calf stretch
  1. Stand in front of a chair and take 2 steps back
  2. Step right leg forward and keep left leg behind
  3. Make sure both feet are pointing forward
  4. Lean forward and stretch the left calf

Hold 20 seconds, 3 sets. Repeat the other side

Butterfly position
Butterfly position
  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent
  2. Squeeze your glutes and drop your knees to the side
  3. Feel the stretch over both hips

Hold 20 seconds, 3 sets

Piriformis stretch
Piriformis stretch
  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent
  2. Cross left leg over right
  3. Grab your right thigh and pull towards yourself
  4. Feel the stretch at the back of your left hip

Hold 20 seconds, 3 sets. Repeat the other side

Glute bridge
  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent
  2. Keep your feet hip-width apart and flat on the mat
  3. Lift your hips off the floor
  4. Make sure your core is tightened
  5. Feel the glutes activating

10 repetitions, 3 sets.

Hamstring bridge
Hamstring bridge
  1. Lie on your back and place your feet on a stool/chair
  2. Keep your feet hip width apart and heels on the support
  3. Lift your hips off the floor
  4. Make sure your core is tightened
  5. Feel the hamstrings activating

10 repetitions, 3 sets

Straight leg raise
Straight leg raise
  1. Sit upright with one knee bent and the other knee straight
  2. Place your hands behind and keep your body upright
  3. Lift the left leg 30 degrees off the ground
  4. Keep your left knee straight throughout
  5. Feel the left quadriceps activating

10 repetitions, 3 sets. Repeat the other side

Clamshells
Clamshells
  1. Lie on your side with your shoulders and hips stack on top of one another
  2. Place your hand on your hip
  3. Turn out the hip while keeping your feet relax
  4. Feel the glute activating 
Wall sit
Wall sit
  1. Lean against a wall
  2. Take 1 step forward and place feet together
  3. Slowly lower the body with back still leaning against the wall
  4. Stop when knee is flexed approximately 90 degrees and slowly slide back up
  5. Feel the quadriceps muscle activating

Hold 20 seconds in a wall sit position. Repeat 3-5 sets

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