Physiotherapy and Knee Osteoarthritis
Knee osteoarthritis (OA) is a condition that affects the cartilage. Cartilage is connective tissue that lines the knee joint and acts as a cushion. When the cartilage wears down with osteoarthritis, pain and stiffness can be felt in the knee. Although repair of cartilage cannot occur once it’s been damaged, muscle strength around the knee can be built to help support the knee joint. For more detailed information on this condition, please see the informative handout on knee OA in a previous blog post.
In a new study published by Fu S, et al. (2019), exercise was shown to help prevent cartilage degradation. Exercise puts mechanical stress on joints, which is detected by living cells in the cartilage. These cells block the action of inflammatory cells associated with arthritis.
Exercise is a key component in the treatment of knee OA. Low impact exercises can put less stress through the knee joint while still building strength around the knee. Please see below for some examples of low impact exercises demonstrated by University of Toronto Physical Therapy student, Anne Wyrough.
Image 1: Knee flexion/extension range of motion
Lying on your back, bend one knee in and then slide it back out. Stay in your painfree range. Do this 3 times a day for 10 repetitions each time to help relieve stiffness in the knee and maintain range of motion.
Image 2: Active straight leg raise
Lying on your back with one knee bent, tighten thigh of other leg and then lift leg keeping your leg straight and core muscles engaged. Slowly lower leg back down and repeat 10 times, 2-3 sets, 1x daily. This exercise is to strengthen the quadriceps muscles.
Image 3: Side lying clamshells
Lying on your side, with your knees bent 90 degrees and hips around 45 degrees as shown, lift the top leg up creating space between your legs. Ankles should stay together and keep pelvis stable, do not let it roll forward or backward. To help with gluteus activation, squeeze glutes before lifting leg. Hold for 5 seconds and then slowly lower leg back down. Repeat 10 times, 2-3 sets, 1x daily. This exercise helps to strengthen your gluteus muscles that stabilize the pelvis and in turn will help stabilize the knee.
If you are experiencing knee stiffness or pain, please see a registered physiotherapist to guide you on your treatment program. Typical physiotherapy for knee OA includes manual therapy, individualized exercise prescription and education about management of the condition. Please see our website for booking information and contact details!
By Olivia Skrastins
Registered Physiotherapist at ALPHA Health Services
Fu S, Thompson CL, Ali A, Wang W, Chapple JP, Mitchison HM, Beales PL, Wann AKT, Knight MM. (2019) Mechanical loading inhibits cartilage inflammatory signalling via an HDAC6 and IFT-dependent mechanism regulating primary cilia elongation. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.joca.2019.03.003