Most patients may jump to the conclusion that a knee replacement is required because of pain due to arthritis. Arthritis can present itself as pain, stiffness, and swelling in any joint of the body. However, studies have shown that only 15% of people with knee arthritis experience knee pain. The conclusion can be drawn that arthritis may or may not be the cause of ongoing knee pain.
Many patients suffering from knee pain experience pain around the kneecap or patella. The leading cause of this pain is an imbalance in the strength of the quadriceps and the hamstrings. These are the two main muscle groups at the front and back of the thigh bone, respectively. The hamstring muscles tend to be weaker as they are used less than the quadriceps muscles. The quadriceps are the primary movers in walking, jumping, and kicking. The hamstrings are the secondary movers in the above movement. The weakness in the hamstring leads to a shortening of the hamstring muscle. This shortening leads to increased tension on the knee cap, the knee cap then presses against the knee joint rather than gliding along on the joint fluidly.
The secondary cause of knee pain is strain along the quadricep or the iliotibial band (IT band). The IT band is a fibrous band that runs from the hip to the outer side of the knee joint. This strain will glide the knee cap outwards, while the IT band will push the knee cap left or right. Either way, the knee will be painful to bend or straighten in everyday movements.
Knee replacement surgery is only necessary when the knee has deteriorated to an arthritic level that prevents a normal range of motion of the knee and pain in the joint while resting. Exercise can help relieve pain due to arthritis in the knee which will result in the inner working dynamics of the knee to move more smoothly.
If you have continuous knee pain, the following exercises will improve the balance of your leg muscles.
It is advised to repeat each exercise 12 times, allowing 1-minute rest in between. Complete 3 rounds of exercises in total. In terms of frequency, it is advised to do these exercises every day if possible and at a minimum of 2-3 times a week.
Stretch the quadriceps
- Stand near a wall for support
- Turn your unaffected leg to the wall, using the corresponding hand for support
- Grab the affected leg with another hand
- Gently pull the foot to the buttock
- Hold for 20-30 seconds
- Repeat on the other side
Strengthening the hamstrings- Straight leg deadlift
- Legs hip width apart, hands at hip level, holding a pole or weight
- Bend forward from your hips, legs straight but the knees are not locked
- Let hands holding weight run down tighs until you start to feel a pull in the hamstrings
- Then return to the original position
- Repeat 10-12 times
Strengthening the calves can prevent tightening of the quadriceps and strengthen the hamstrings
- Standing in front of a chair for support
- Rise onto the base of the foot, heels lift off of the floor
- Lower feet to the group
- You can then progress the exercise to holding dumbbells while executing
- Repeat 15-20 times
After consistently doing the above exercises daily for 2 to 3 weeks there should be a significant improvement in pain levels within the knee joint. If the pain has not yet completely subsided, you should stick with the training to ensure the original pain does not reoccur.
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