Do you suffer from knee pain? If so, you are not alone. According to data published by Arthritis Research UK in conjunction with Public Health England, one in five adults over the age of 45 in England has osteoarthritis of the knee. According to an article published in Family Practice (volume 24, issue 5), knee pain is the most common type of pain reported by older adults visiting their GP.
What causes knee pain?
Painful knees can be related to a range of different conditions and injuries but among the most common are osteoarthritis, a degenerative condition that causes loss of cartilage in the joints, and rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that causes the body to attack its own joint linings.
Injuries such as meniscal or cartilage tears, knee ligaments damage (including commonly the anterior cruciate ligament), as well as patellar tendinitis (which causes irritation of the tissues that attach your knee muscles) and bursitis can also cause knee pain.
Why exercise is beneficial
Despite what you may think, exercise is actually really beneficial for painful knee joints. This is because carefully controlled movement helps to maintain the knee joint’s full range of motion and strengthens the muscles that support it. The stronger your muscles are, the more effectively your knee joint can work as a shock absorber when you walk or run.
The best type of exercise for knee pain
Low impact exercises are generally the best type for painful knee joints. The term ‘impact’ refers to the amount and duration of force being exerted on your joints as you exercise. A low impact exercise is one that does not involve significant amounts of force and it normally means that one or both feet remain in contact with the ground throughout the exercise or that the entire body weight is supported. The most popular forms of low impact exercise include swimming, walking, cycling, yoga and gardening.
The reason that low impact exercises work so well for painful knee joints is that they do not excessively jar the bones, joints or connective tissues. They can be particularly suitable for older people, who are most prone to painful knee joints, as well as people who may not have exercised for some time or who are recovering from injury.
As we age, we naturally start to lose bone density and our tissues become less elastic and cannot regenerate as effectively as they did when we were younger. Adding low impact exercise to your daily regime can help to strengthen your knee joint, which may help to reduce the risk of injury. Before embarking on an exercise regime it is a good idea to check with a doctor or exercise therapist that the exercises you are proposing will be safe and effective. And always remember to warm up properly before starting to avoid pulling a muscle – a brisk walk or cycling on an exercise bike are both great ways to warm up.
Among the exercises that may help to strengthen painful knees are:
- Lunging hip flexor stretch – this involves kneeling on one knee with the other foot flat on the floor and your front thigh parallel to the floor. Leaning forward stretches your hip towards the floor. The exercise opens up your hips so your knees and quads are protected from overworking.
- Standing hamstring stretch – Stand on your left foot with your right foot in front of you with the heels to the floor and toes up. Hinge forwards at your hips, bending your right knee with your left leg straight with the weight on the edge of your heal. Switch sides. This exercise helps to keep your hamstrings supple which can help prevent knee injuries.
Of course, while exercise is a useful way to build strength and flexibility, it is no substitute for proper medical diagnosis and treatment, particularly if the pain you are experiencing is new pain or is severe.
Carrothers Orthopaedic specialises in the effective diagnosis and treatment of all types of musculoskeletal pain, including knee pain, using the latest techniques and technologies.
Carrothers Orthopaedics Consultations
Carrothers Orthopaedics is still here for our patients during this time. Whilst treatment options have been restricted in previous months, we are still providing online consultations via Zoom or telephone, as well as face to face if the condition necessitates.
We are here for you to talk through your symptoms, provide diagnosis with imaging modalities and discuss the full range of treatments available to you.
Please contact us by telephone or email to arrange a consultation.