Here at Be Mobile Physiotherapy, a lot of people come to us with Knee Osteoarthritis. Understandably, there are a lot of concerns and misconceptions surrounding this condition. Today we thought we would address some of these, but also provide some guidance around what to do to help improve your symptoms so that you can get moving and do the things you love.
Commonly Asked Questions:
Q. I have been told that my knees are “worn out” or that “my knees have a lot of wear and tear”. Isn’t exercise doing more damage?
A. The joints in our bodies do not “wear out” like the metallic joints in car do. In fact, exercise is very important to keep our joints healthy and happy. Cartilage does not have a blood supply like our muscles and bones, so it has to get its nutrients from the surrounding synovial fluid in the joint. Think of cartilage like a sponge. When we exercise, we compress the sponge, and then when we recover the sponge expands, sucking in all the nutrients from the synovial fluid. This is how cartilage regenerates – so it is very important to exercise with osteoarthritis.
Q. That’s all well and good, but my X-Ray shows that my knees are bone on bone! My Doctor told me I have the knees of someone much older!
A. Imaging findings are not a good indicator of symptoms. About half of people with knee pain have no visible signs on X-Ray. It’s also as common for people without pain to have signs of OA on imaging. We care more about the symptoms you experience than the imaging report. Telling someone that they have the knees of someone older than themselves is counterproductive – the older you get, the more likely an X-Ray will show normal age related changes, but that certainly doesn’t mean you will have symptoms.
Q. But I get lots of knee pain when exercising – doesn’t that mean I should stop?
A. Pain during exercise is very common, even in people without knee osteoarthritis. If someone with knee osteoarthritis stopped exercising every time they had discomfort, not a lot of exercise would get done! This is a problem for a couple of reasons. Firstly, exercise is crucial for good health. Secondly, whenever we stop exercising our joints and muscles become deconditioned which can lead to further inactivity and pain. We call this the cycle of inactivity. The good news is that we can reverse this cycle by performing an exercise program that is matched to our ability level.
Q. Is squatting bad for my knees?
A. While squatting might be a sensitive movement for your knees, it is not a harmful movement in itself. In fact, every time you stand up from a chair you are performing a squat – you can’t avoid it. The best thing you can do is prepare yourself for this movement by training the squat to build thigh strength and make your knees more tolerant of loading.
Q. ‘The best exercise for knee osteoarthritis is hydrotherapy’
A. All exercise has health benefits and hydrotherapy can be a very comfortable form of movement for a lot of people. However, having your body weight supported by water does not reflect the requirements of everyday life so it is not the best way to prepare you for things like going up and down stairs, standing from a chair or getting down to the floor. The research strongly supports land-based exercise for knee osteoarthritis. Exercise that replicates these movements, strengthens the muscles and puts loads through the knee joint in a slowly progressed fashion is a great choice.
Q. Knee Osteoarthritis runs in my family. My Mother had to have knee replacements so it’s only a matter of time till I need them too.
A. While there is a genetic component to knee osteoarthritis, just because someone in your family has had it, certainly doesn’t guarantee that you will too. Remember that there are lots of factors that contribute to osteoarthritis over a lifetime. There are a number of things you can do to prevent knee OA as well as improve your condition if you have already been diagnosed. These are maintaining a healthy lifestyle and bodyweight, being educated about the condition and engaging in regular physical activity and resistance training.
For more information and some exercises to try check out our knee osteoarthritis video here - https://youtu.be/lgfCHeonlCQ