Strengthening your knee muscles can help to reduce joint pain and increase function. That’s because stronger muscles are better able to absorb the pressure placed on the joints in weight bearing. In fact, strengthening is beneficial to individuals at any stage of knee osteoarthritis and all levels of physical fitness when performed without pain.
The quadriceps in the front of the thigh and the hamstrings in the back are important to knee strength and preservation of joint health. When you walk or run or do anything weight-bearing, the quads absorb the shock. The stronger your quads are, the less load that gets transferred into the joint.
Individuals with osteoarthritis who are consistent with strengthening programs have been shown to have less pain and an improved quality of life.
How you build your quad strength depends on your current pain levels, strength, and physical fitness which can be evaluated by a physical therapist. A physical therapist can perform an evaluation including strength and flexibility of the entire lower body and provide an individualized program. Some common exercises include: tightening your quads with your leg out in front of you and leg raises. As your knee joint symptoms allow and strength improves, you’ll progress to standing exercises such squats, steps and lunges.
Many people often don’t know that strengthening takes consistency of daily exercise for four to six weeks before you can expect to see the benefits. Once daily exercises for four to six weeks are completed consistently without pain, then you can move to rigorous exercises two to three times a week, but you can never go back to a sedentary lifestyle. A sedentary lifestyle doesn’t help to restore cartilage. So if you stop, you will go back to the way you felt before.
Guest Blog by: Laura Evans PT, DPT, Clinic Co-Director for Therapeutic Associates Sherwood