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Exercises for your knees

Keep Your Knee Moving to Improve Flexibility

It is very important to receive your doctor's clearance before beginning this or any other exercise program. Certain exercises may not be appropriate for you, or may need to be altered to take into account your particular degree of disease activity or any physical disabilities you may have. These guidelines about exercise are not intended as a substitute for individualized medical counseling. Individual responses to exercise may vary, so you should listen to your body. Do not force any position or do any movement that causes pain. Work at your own level. Gentleness is the key word—no bouncing, jerking, or forcing. If you have any questions about any of the exercises on this site, talk with your doctor or physical therapist.

Exercise is an important part of treating osteoarthritis. Different types of exercise—aerobic, strengthening, flexibility—can improve your health in different ways. When you exercise, it is important that you warm up (a short walk) before stretching and strengthening exercises. Minor muscle soreness or joint discomfort after exercising is normal. Apply ice to your knee 15 to 20 minutes after a workout to reduce the swelling and stiffness. However, if your joints are painful for the next few days, or if the pain increases, stop exercising until you can talk to your doctor.

Aerobic training

Aerobic exercise strengthens your lungs and increases your stamina. Swimming, walking, and cycling are usually good aerobic exercises for people with osteoarthritis. You want to start slowly and gradually increase the length of time you devote to exercise. Your goal should be 30 minutes of activity per session.

Strength and flexibility training

Strengthening the muscles around the knee is important in minimizing symptoms of osteoarthritis. These muscles provide stability and help absorb the loads transferred at the knee. For example, strengthening the quadriceps muscle, which helps stabilize the knee, can decrease pain and increase function. Talk to your doctor about which strength training exercises are right for you.

Next are some simple knee exercises that can help improve your muscle strength and flexibility.

Exercise 1

For the knee-to-chest stretch, lie on your back, grasp your shin, and bend your knee toward your chest as shown. Hold the position for 5 to 7 seconds. Then release slowly until your leg is straight. Do this five times.

Exercise 2

The knee-straightening exercise builds strength and stability in your knee. Sit up and stretch your leg as shown below. For maximum extension, elevate your leg a few inches by placing a book under your heel. Gently press down on your knee, and be sure to make your leg as straight as possible. Hold the position for 5 to 7 seconds.

Strong Legs Make Strong Knees

I learned a long time ago that one of the best things I can do for my knee is to strengthen my leg muscles. The stronger your legs, the less strain on your knees.

Here are two terrific exercises to help strengthen your upper leg muscles and put power in your stride. They're very simple:

Exercise 1

For quad-lifts, lie on your back on a firm, flat surface with one leg straight, the other bent. Slowly lift your straight leg 6 to 8 inches while tightening the front upper leg muscle. Hold the position for at least five seconds. Repeat 12 times, then work the other leg. You should work up to three sets of 12 repetitions for maximum benefit.

Exercise 2

To strengthen your hamstring muscle, lie on your stomach, slowly raise one leg 2 to 4 inches, and hold the position for 5 to 7 seconds. Build to three sets of 12 repetitions.