Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, affecting 500 million people worldwide. Despite its prevalence, having osteoarthritis knee can still feel like a very lonely and debilitating experience. However, treatments and knowledge about osteoarthritis are better than ever. You can live comfortably with osteoarthritis of the knee by taking action to protect your joints, improve mobility, and limit discomfort. With a little extra effort, you can still go on to live a normal life, and even thrive. Here’s how.
Coping With Osteoarthritis Knee
Living with osteoarthritis knee doesn’t mean you have to completely change your lifestyle. In many cases, you simply need to modify and adjust to your condition. The important thing to remember is that osteoarthritis is not a terminal condition. If you think of it as one, you’re more likely to avoid exercise, causing your knee to weaken and making it seem like your symptoms are worse, which creates a vicious cycle. Your mindset is everything, so try to take on a proactive, positive approach to dealing with your osteoarthritis.
Coping with osteoarthritis of the knee can simply mean creating new self-care strategies that are a little different from what you’re used to, depending on the type of lifestyle you were leading. The only activities you truly need to avoid are those that are repetitive and high-impact, like playing tennis or running. This impact can put undue strain on already damaged knees. However, it’s important to still lead a healthy and active lifestyle.
Self-care strategies will vary from person to person. However, treating osteoarthritis and the pain typically includes a combination of:
- Weight loss or weight management
- Unloader or support knee braces
- Occupational and physical therapy
- Anti-inflammatory drugs and pain relievers
- Hyaluronic acid or corticosteroid knee injections
- Alternative therapy, like acupuncture or supplements
Osteoarthritis Knee Exercises
When dealing with osteoarthritis knee, exercise might be the last thing on your mind. However, keeping your muscles strong is key to having a good quality of life. Exercise won’t wear your knee out. In fact, strengthening the leg leads to a more flexible and active body, which translates to the longer you can wait before even considering surgery. Weight loss, if needed, can also help eliminate some of the pain.
It is also worth noting that the pain you feel with osteoarthritis knee can come from three different things: synovitis (inflammation of the knee joint), edema (inflammation of the bone), and the periosteum (the tissue that covers the bone). Most people don’t experience pain from all three. For the majority of people, the irritation and pain will calm after a few weeks, or sometimes months, and you’ll return to your normal baseline. While you should always listen to your body and avoid doing exercises that hurt, you also need to take advantage of the times when your knee does not hurt to get the low-impact training that your body needs.
Your exercise regime should be well-rounded and include aerobic activities that raise the heart rate, as well as strength training that builds muscle and balance. Consider doing the following regularly:
- Low-impact aerobic exercises like swimming, walking, rowing, and biking
- Strength training like squats, lunges, deadlifts, calf raises, pilates, and push-ups
- Flexibility training, like stretching and yoga
With exercising, it is always important to do a warm-up and cool down. Warm-ups should include dynamic stretching, which means you’re putting your joints and muscles through a full range of motion. Cooldowns should include more static stretching, so you’re holding one pose to stretch out the muscle you just worked.
Beyond your usual workouts, you can also do some osteoarthritis knee exercises to help stretch and strengthen the joint. Always be sure to warm up before doing the following:
- Hamstring stretch
- Straight leg raise
- Side leg raise
- Seated hip march
- Heel raise
- Calf stretch
- Balance on one leg at a time
- Squeeze a pillow between your knees (while laying on your back, knees bent)
Weight Management and Osteoarthritis of the Knee
Maintaining a healthy weight for your height, gender, and age is incredibly important for protecting your knees. This is because your knee or knees are already damaged and putting excess weight on them adds pressure and stress that can worsen your condition. Losing weight, if you do have any excess weight to lose, can slow the rate of cartilage degeneration and ease your knee pain. In a study from the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), overweight and obese patients who lost weight over a 4-year period showed significantly lower cartilage degeneration. The more weight they lost, the better their results were.
If you have weight to lose, a dietician can provide a plan to help you understand exactly what your body needs with your medications in mind. However, there are a few general rules you can follow to eat a healthy diet that aids with weight loss. First, try to avoid processed foods, as these are often full of sugar, oil, and fat. Scientific research supports eating a Mediterranean diet, which is full of fresh vegetables, fruits, lean meat, fish, whole grains, legumes, and high-quality olive oil.
If you aren’t sure where to start, try starting small. If you drink a lot of sugary drinks, try eliminating them first and choosing water instead. When you feel confident with that change, eliminate any other added sugar, like cookies and donuts. Try replacing these sweets with fresh fruit. Finally, remove processed carbohydrates, like white rice, white bread, and cereal. Not only can this help you lose weight, but it can also help reduce inflammation, control diabetes, and reduce your risk of fatty liver, which will improve your overall health.
When to Seek Help for Osteoarthritis Knee
If you think you may have osteoarthritis of the knee, don’t delay seeing your doctor. The sooner you treat it, the more you can protect your knee. If you experience the following symptoms over the course of a few days or in several bursts over a month, see your doctor.
- Stiff or tender knees, especially upon waking up in the morning or after a rest
- Limited range of motion in the knee
- Swollen knees during extended activity
- Knee pain that is at its worst at the end of an activity or end of the day
- Clicking or cracking knees
- Struggling to do daily activities that involve bending the knees
If you know that you have osteoarthritis of the knee and have taken all of the steps necessary for coping, like regular osteoarthritis knee exercises, weight loss, and using braces, it might be time to take things a step further. Your doctor will likely prescribe medications to help with the pain and limit inflammation. If these don’t work, this is the right time for you to consult Knee Specialist Singapore.
To make sure what further treatment is right for you, Contact us today. We’re here to help!