Did you know that knee pain is actually very common, especially in the over 50s age group?
In fact, the latest research reveals nearly 10% of the Australian population are suffering from and will likely suffer from osteoarthritis of the knee in the near future. It is also more common in females.
Knee and shin pain
Sharp pains or cracking noises from the knee.
Stiffness in the morning
Weakness in the leg or ‘giving way.’
Difficulty standing long periods
Trouble getting in/out of car
Sitting in low chairs and getting up (e.g. couch, toilet)
Walking long distances.
Is it arthritis?
Arthritis progresses slowly and in many people never gets to the point where their cartilage within the joint is completely worn out. Much of the pain is due to swelling and involves all the structures of the joint including muscles, bone and the soft capsule that surrounds it.
Even when your x-rays show arthritis, you still have cartilage left in your joint! So, is it really “bone on bone?” For most people, the answer is no.
Do I need a scan or x-ray?
The answer is probably not straight away, there is good evidence that a physiotherapy led program can significantly improve pain and function so the answer is to seek treatment before seeking a scan or x-ray.
There is also a poor correlation between the x-ray findings and symptoms. The x-ray may reveal arthritis which may look worrying but this is not always the cause of your knee pain.
The most common causes are:
Lack of exercise especially strength around the knee and hips
Poor postural habits – such as crossing your legs too much or standing with all your weight on one leg
Walking on uneven ground and up and down stairs and hills.
The good news?
Research has shown that an exercise program for your knee is more likely to give a positive response after 12 weeks with at least 8-12 sessions. In fact if you strengthen not only your knee muscles but your hip muscles also greater improvement is gained.
You are more likely to do your exercises and get better results if you are guided by a physiotherapist rather than just follow a leaflet or read 'Dr Google!'
You're also more likely to gain better results if you exercise in a group.
A combination of aerobic, endurance, resistance and balance exercises are best, they must be performed 3-4 times per week and over 12 weeks for best results.
You may be surprised because walking and exercise can make you feel worse initially, but the key is to find a type of exercise that suits you and doesn’t increase the load in your joints.
So what can I do on a daily basis to help myself?
When sitting try not to sit in a low chair or cross your legs for long periods of time
When standing try to stand with even weight on both legs
Start a simple exercise program such as walking but make sure you have good cushioned footwear and avoid hills and stairs
Avoid repetitive kneeling and squatting as these activities place a lot of unnecessary stress on our knee joints, all of which can lead to overuse injuries like bursitis and tendonitis
Spread out tasks such as gardening and other odd jobs around the home. For example with gardening do a little bit of weeding interspersed with pruning or watering, or weed one garden bed then resting before moving on to the next. You’ll be surprised how much of a difference this can make and your knees will thank you for it!
Other things that can help your knees is to kneel on an old folded towel. The extra padding with cushion the front of your knees against the hard ground, dispersing the pressure away from sensitive tendons and the bursa under the knee cap. Another handy tip is to sit on a small stool or bucket turned up. This will help you avoid all of that squatting, which doesn’t do wonders for you back or hips!
What if I am already booked in for a knee operation?
Pre-operative rehabilitation is also important in optimising the outcome of your procedure.
While the need for rehabilitation following surgery (post op) is well appreciated, the importance of exercising before surgery (pre-op) is often overlooked.
Often, due to a long period of pain and reduced activity/exercise leading up to surgery, muscles become weaker, and walking, balance and fitness deteriorate.
It is therefore recommended that you perform a program of land and/or water based strengthening, flexibility and general fitness exercises three times a week for at least 6-12 weeks prior to surgery. This should be done under the guidance of a suitably qualified physiotherapist and often more effectively performed in a group.
Studies have shown reduced pain and increased physical function following surgery in patients who had performed an exercise program prior to surgery compared with those who had not. It has also been shown to reduce the chance that you will require extended inpatient rehabilitation prior to being discharged home after surgery. So, you can get back to the comfort of your own home sooner!
Improved muscle strength reduces the effects of muscle wasting following surgery, making standing, walking and getting out of bed or a chair much easier.
Other benefits of a pre-op exercise program include:
Improved balance – reduces the risk of falls
Weight loss – reduces stresses on your new joint and other joints
Improved general fitness – decreases the risk of surgical and post op complications
Familiarisation with the exercises and program you will perform following surgery
Improved mental preparation for the surgery
All this leads to a better outcome and reduced recovery time following your surgical procedure!
So see your physio today to start a specific exercise program and say goodbye to knee pain and get back to work, sport and life!
For more information please contact The Physio Clinic on 8342 1233 or click below to book online.
Prospect | Findon | Burnside Hospital | Blackwood