Osteoarthritis Doesn’t Mean the End of Your Workouts
Many people stop working out with weights when they have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis (OA), usually because they experience pain. But don’t let that be you! Often your form and technique can be adjusted, and there are many exercises that you can perform that will not only be pain-free but help you to improve your strength and mobility.
Strengthening the muscles around the affected joint helps to keep the bones in their proper position. When the joint moves better, there is less stress. The endurance of the muscles needs to be increased as well, as Dr Cruz [link] mentioned earlier. The longer the muscles can withstand fatigue, the longer the joint is stable!
Let’s focus for now on the knee, since it is so commonly affected.
Technique: We always strive to keep the joint in alignment when working out. For example, your knee should always be in line with your second toe. No matter what exercise you are doing, keep this in mind. You can see from the video below that when squatting, lunging, or any other knee flexion exercise, the knee is in perfect alignment.
Stabilization exercises: Here are my favourite exercises that help keep the knee joint stable. We must strengthen our quads, adductors, and glute muscles.
Plié squat: this is a favourite exercise of mine for strengthening the adductors and glutes. As you can see in the picture, the toes are turned out, the knees are in alignment with the toes, but otherwise, it’s a normal squat. Turn your toes out as far as you can keep your knees in alignment. The best way to do a good squat, is to imagine that you are sitting on the toilet. I hate this analogy, but it really works! Last thing: don’t let your knees go forward past your shoe laces.
Split squats: this is an exercise that needs to be done correctly, and when it is, it is very beneficial! You must remember to keep your front knee in line with your second toe, and your front leg must be working more than the back leg. Focus on your glutes (somewhere around your hips). If your glutes are working, you are doing it properly. Do not let your front knee go past your shoe laces, I perfer it to be overtop your ankle. The back leg stays on the toes, and knee under the hip. Your shoulders should be over your hips at all times.
Clam press: such a common exercise, and for good reason! The glute muscles prevent the knee from rolling and going out of alignment. So keep them strong! It’s important to note with this exercise that your pelvis must remain still, ankles stay together, and the knee only lifts as far up as you can keep your pelvis still.
1 leg Romanian Deadlift: Think of those dipping bird novelty toys! This is a perfect exercise to strengthen your ankles, your knees, and your hips. They must all work together in unison for you to walk, run, and move well. As long as you don’t have a lower back diagnosis, this exercise is so great. Keep your back straight, knee a little bent, and lift that other leg up as high as you can.
And of course I cannot discuss strengthening without stretching. That knee joint must be flexible as well. The important stretches are the quad, glutes, and outer thigh. When stretching the quad, keep your knee under your body, and in line with your shoulder. Using a stretching strap while on your stomach is the best way to make sure you are being safe and gentle. The figure 4 stretch for your piriformis is likely the best way to get the glutes and loosen up the hip. Finally, stretching your outer thigh helps the patella (knee cap) stay in alignment for a smoother glide. For this stretch lean slightly forward, and turn your bottom leg in, while your hips are facing forward. Stretching should always be comfortable, gentle, and in good posture. Hold your stretches for at least 30 seconds, and done when you are a little bit warm.
There are so many exercises that you can do even with knee pain. Talk to a professional about how you can continue your workouts, stay fit, and be pain free!
Jen Mark, BSc., CAT(C), CSCS