arthritis knee exercises

From stretching to leg raises and kickbacks, there are several gentle and easy arthritis knee exercises you can do to strengthen your muscles and assist your knee joints.

When exercising with arthritis, the first tip is to start small, know your limits, and stay consistent. If any exercises put too much strain on your body and leave you more exhausted, you should avoid them.

These arthritis knee exercises will help you alleviate knee pains and live happily. Constant movement is key to staying above rheumatoid arthritis or any arthritis. 

The best exercises for arthritis are those you can practice constantly, anywhere, and at your leisure. 

What causes knee pain with arthritis?

Arthritis is an inflammatory condition that results in inflammation or is caused by inflammation. Arthritis of the knee is any arthritis that affects the knee joints, e.g., knee osteoarthritis.

The knee joints have cartilages that help protect the bones as they move against each other. When you have arthritis, this causes the cartilage to wear down, leading to a breakdown in the protective barrier of the joints.

The bones begin to rub on each other, and the friction can result in stiffness, swelling, and pain.

Arthritis can also affect the joint fluid referred to as synovium and the meniscus, which are part of the protective barriers found in the knee joint.

Muscles to target for knee exercises

  • Back of the thigh: The muscles at the back of the thigh are called hamstring muscles.
  • Front of the thigh: The muscles at the front of the thigh are called quadriceps
  • Front of the hips: The muscles at the front of the hip are called hip flexors
  • Lower leg muscles: These muscles are called the calf muscles.
arthritis knee exercises

Easy Arthritis knee exercises to practice

1. Swimming

Swimming is a low-impact, aerobic arthritis knee exercise, and it doesn’t lead to a lot of strain on the joints, but it helps to strengthen your muscles.

2. Hamstring stretch

Stretching your hamstring muscles helps to increase your flexibility and motion range, which is why the hamstring stretch exercise is a good arthritis knee exercise to practice.

3. Sitting leg raise

As the name implies, you have to do this knee exercise while sitting down, meaning that you can do it in class or in the office. Make sure your back is straight while sitting, then raise one of your legs till it is straight. Hold that position for 10-15 seconds and put your leg down. Repeat the process for the other leg.

4. Lying leg raise

This exercise is slightly different from the sitting leg raise. You can do it on flat surfaces like the floor and your bed. In a lying posture, bend one of your legs at the knee, and the other leg should be straight with your heel on the ground. Slightly raise the straight leg off the bed and hold the position for 5-10 seconds when you feel a stretch.

Repeat for the other leg.

5. Step-ups using stairs

If you do not have stairs around you, you can create a make-shift sturdy step using wood. Ask your local carpenter for help, and include a handrail for balance and support.

Placing your right leg on the bottom step, clench the right thigh muscles and lift the left leg until it touches the step.

Slowly lower it back down, repeat, and switch legs for as long as possible.

You can go a little further and hold the leg for some seconds before lowering it back down.

6. Leg muscle stretch

This leg muscle stretch works well for your knees, especially when you constantly experience a lot of stiffness. Use a rolled-up towel a little bit thick and place it underneath your right ankle. Lie down on your back and bend your left leg at the knee.

The rolled-up towel creates a distance between the back of your right knee and the floor. Using your muscles, push your right knee back towards the bed. 

Repeat the exercise with your left leg.

7. Sit and Stand

Basically, sitting and standing but without using your hands for support. Each movement will be slow and repeated for as long as you can.

You can adjust the distance to suit your strength. You can also make the chair low or high and add a cushion if necessary.

8. Leg cross

For this knee exercise, sit at the edge of a chair and cross your legs at the ankles. 

Push the leg at the front backward and the leg at the back forward, so your two legs are pushing against each other.

Do this until your thigh muscles become tense and hold as long as you can.

Switch legs and repeat the process.

9. Quad stretch

All you need to do for the quad stretch is lie down on your back but keep your legs put together. 

Flex and tighten your right leg’s thigh muscles (quadriceps) and hold out for as long as possible. You’ll feel the stretch if you’re doing it right.

Switch with the left leg and keep going at your pace.

arthritis knee exercises

10. Seated hip march

Seated hip march is one of the arthritis knee exercises that will help to strengthen your hip and thigh muscles. 

Sit on a chair with your back straightened. Slightly move your left foot backward, and with or without your hands, bend and raise your right leg off the ground and hold for 5 seconds. 

Lower to the ground and switch legs.

11. Kickbacks

Kickbacks will help to strengthen your leg muscles and reduce stiffness in your knee joints.

In a standing position, raise your leg with your knee bent backward to move your heel towards your buttocks.

Hold the position for 15-20 seconds, switch legs, and repeat.

12. Standing leg lifts

If you are looking for an arthritis knee exercise that helps with strength, balance, and stability, this standing leg lift is for you.

Stand sideways against a wall and raise your leg away from the wall without turning your toes. Make sure not to lean or bend but keep a straight position. Hold for 10 seconds, repeat, and switch.

13. Pillow squeeze

The pillow squeeze exercise will help strengthen the inside of your legs, and you do this by sitting or lying down.

Lie down with your knees bent, put a pillow between your knees, and squeeze it between them. Hold that position for 5-10 seconds and repeat.

14. One leg balance

Do you have trouble getting in and out of cars? Or maybe you have difficulty bending over? This one-leg balance will help you out if you practice it consistently.

Stand behind a counter or a chair and slowly lift one of your feet from the floor without holding on to any support. Stand with one foot up for as long as 20 seconds or more.

Switch legs and repeat.

15. Walking

Walking is a great arthritis knee exercise, and it will help to strengthen your leg muscles, especially if it becomes part of your daily routine.

If you need to go somewhere, park your car at a distance and walk the remaining journey, or you can take an evening stroll around the neighborhood.

To heighten the tension, you can do brisk walking and alternate with low-paced walking.

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Final Thoughts

Before starting these exercises, you must make sure your doctor is aware of these changes and keep track of the time you spend exercising, how you feel, and your energy threshold each time.

This will help your doctor track how effective exercise is for you and plan for any flare-ups that might occur later.

Do not overdo any of these arthritis knee exercises, and make sure to go at a pace you set for yourself. Avoid comparison and steadily go till you can move up on your intensity.

You know I always root for you. 

Have you practiced any of these knee exercises before? What was your experience, and how has it helped you?

READ ALSO: 10 easy lower body exercises & tips for people with arthritis

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