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7 Essential Home Exercises to Improve Degenerative Knee Arthritis

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Degenerative arthritis, is the most common type of arthritis, with the knee joint being one of the most frequently affected areas. In addition to aging, improper muscle use is a major contributing factor to osteoarthritis. This article introduces seven home exercises that can help alleviate symptoms and support knee joint health.

Recently, a friend of mine in his 30s was diagnosed with degenerative knee arthritis. After consulting several doctors, he was advised to try self-rehabilitation through exercise, which helped him avoid joint replacement surgery. His story illustrates that degenerative knee arthritis can affect individuals of all ages. Specifically, this condition occurs due to the wearing down of cartilage in the knee joint, leading to inflammation.

Causes of Knee Cartilage Damage

As we age, the secretion of joint fluid decreases and the knee joint experiences wear and tear from years of friction, resulting in the thinning of cartilage. This condition can be further exacerbated by the following habits or circumstances:

  1. Sudden or prolonged bending of the knee beyond 90 degrees
  2. Frequent hiking or stair climbing
  3. Repeated bending and straightening of the knee, such as when kneeling or squatting
  4. Being overweight causes greater stress on the knee joints.
  5. A history of knee joint injuries
  6. A family history of arthritis
  7. Insufficient muscle strength: The muscles around the knee joint are responsible for maintaining knee balance and distributing pressure. If muscle strength is inadequate, even minor activities can lead to excessive stress on the knee joint, causing wear and tear.
  8. Bearing heavy loads or standing for long periods increases knee joint pressure.
  9. Inactivity of the knee leads to a lack of lubrication, causing soft tissue wear during movement.
  10. Sudden extensive movements, combined with a lack of regular exercise for the muscles around the knee, can increase the risk of knee joint injuries.

3 Types of Beneficial Exercises for the Knee Joint

The movement of joints is facilitated by the stretching and contracting of muscles. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), it is believed that improper muscle use can lead to bone misalignment and excessive friction, resulting in soft tissue damage. Therefore, strengthening the muscles around the knee is considered the most effective approach to addressing degenerative knee arthritis.

The muscles related to the knee include the quadriceps, hamstrings, calf muscles, and glutes. According to a research article published in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, adding hip abduction exercises to the routine of patients with degenerative knee osteoarthritis has been shown to be effective in reducing knee joint pain. Knee joint exercises are generally divided into three types:

  1. Stretching: The primary goal is to relax the muscles around the knee joint and enhance their flexibility.
  2. Leg muscle exercises: These exercises target the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calf muscles directly related to the knee. Research has shown that training the rectus femoris (one of the quadriceps muscles) is particularly beneficial for the knee.
  3. Hip muscle stabilization exercises: These exercises primarily focus on abduction of the gluteus medius.

Hamstring Stretching Exercises

Seated leg hug exercise demonstrated by Amber Lang. (The Epoch Times)
Seated leg hug exercise demonstrated by Amber Lang. (The Epoch Times)

Hamstring Stretching Exercise 1: Seated Leg Hug

Steps:

  1. Sit on a chair with both feet flat on the ground.
  2. Lift one foot and place it on the chair, bringing the heel as close to your body as possible. Hold it with both hands, lean slightly forward, and hold for 10 seconds.
  3. Repeat with the other leg.
Seated knee press. (The Epoch Times)
Seated knee press. (The Epoch Times)

Hamstring Stretching Exercise 2: Seated Knee Press

Steps:

  1. Sit on a chair.
  2. Extend one leg and point your toes upward. Place your palms together on the knee, press downward for five seconds, then straighten up. Repeat this pressing motion five times.
  3. Repeat with the other leg.

You should feel a stretch in the muscles behind your knee as you perform this exercise.

Quadriceps Strengthening Exercises

Seated toe curl. (The Epoch Times)
Seated toe curl. (The Epoch Times)

Quadriceps Strengthening Exercise 1: Seated Toe Curl

Steps:

  1. Sit on a chair with both legs extended.
  2. Curl your toes upward as much as you can, hold for five seconds, then release. Repeat this 10 times.

When curling your toes upward, you should feel a tightening sensation in the muscles of your thighs and calves. This exercise helps strengthen these muscles and is particularly suitable for beginners or those who cannot bend their knees.

Seated leg extension. (The Epoch Times)
Seated leg extension. (The Epoch Times)

Quadriceps Strengthening Exercise 2: Seated Leg Extension

Steps:

  1. Sit on a chair and lean your body forward to shift your weight.
  2. Slowly lift one lower leg off the ground as high as possible without moving your thigh. Hold for five seconds, then lower it down. Repeat several times.
  3. Repeat with the other leg.

When lifting your lower leg, you should feel the engagement of your quadriceps. Experienced individuals can hold the lower leg in the air for longer, up to eight to 10 seconds, before lowering it.

Standing toe raises. (The Epoch Times)
Standing toe raises. (The Epoch Times)

Quadriceps Strengthening Exercise 3: Standing Toe Raises

Steps:

  1. Stand with your legs straight, and lean your body backward so your hips rest against the back of a chair.
  2. Slowly lift your toes upward, hold for five seconds, then lower them. Repeat 10 times.

This exercise engages the muscles in your thighs and calves, thereby strengthening them.

Chair squat. (The Epoch Times)
Chair squat. (The Epoch Times)

Quadriceps Strengthening Exercise 4: Chair Squat

Steps:

  1. Sit on the front third of the chair with your feet shoulder-width apart. Make sure your big toes, little toes, and heels are firmly planted on the ground, and lean your body forward.
  2. Use the strength in your legs and hips to lift your body off the chair, rising about the height of a fist, then sit back down.

This exercise targets the quadriceps and gluteal muscles. Experienced individuals can stand up completely before sitting back down.

Gluteal Muscles Stabilization Exercise

Seated hip abduction with hip band. (The Epoch Times)
Seated hip abduction with hip band. (The Epoch Times)

Gluteal Muscles Stabilization Exercise 1: Seated Hip Abduction with Hip Band

Steps:

  1. Sit on the front third of the chair with a hip band looped around your thighs.
  2. With your feet shoulder-width apart, ensure that your big toes, little toes, and heels are firmly planted on the ground. Lean your upper body forward about 45 degrees.
  3. Exhale as you push your legs outward against the resistance of the band, and inhale as you bring them back together. Repeat several times.

This exercise engages the gluteal muscles, which are the muscles in your hips.

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