Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and occurs when the joints (cartilage) wear down over time, resulting in less cushioning around the joints. Two of the most commonly affected joints are the hip and knee, and osteoarthritis in these joints can significantly impact your quality of life. Chances are, you know someone who has hip or knee OA, is waiting for a joint replacement, taking pain medication, or is in a lot of pain! As a physiotherapist I hear this a lot, read: multiple times per day. Unfortunately, we often see these folks later in the disease process than what we would like.

So, read on for what I wish I could tell everyone NOW, before joint pain begins.

Understanding Hip and Knee Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis in the hip and knee joints is caused by wear and tear on the cartilage that cushions the joints. When this cartilage breaks down, the bones in the joint rub against each other, causing pain and stiffness.

Symptoms of hip and knee osteoarthritis can include pain, stiffness, swelling, and a limited range of motion. Over time, the joint may become deformed, making it difficult to perform daily activities like walking, climbing stairs, or getting in and out of a chair.

Effective Exercise Techniques for Managing Hip and Knee Osteoarthritis: Move your joint LOADED through its ENTIRE range of motion

There is a reason that North America has some of the highest rates of osteoarthritis compared to other countries. We rarely load our hip and knee joints through their entire range, EVER! Think about it, our toilets are nice and high up so we don’t have to squat, our computer chairs are at a height that only requires our knee and hip joints to bend just over half of their full capacity, and lounging on a lazy boy? Don’t even get me started.

Some products are coming around (take the infamous Squatty Potty, a toilet aid that attempts to get us into deeper hip and knee flexion (bending). The movement, however, is still unloaded, meaning that you’re not putting much of your body weight onto your joints in that position.

Understanding Loaded Movements for Hip and Knee Osteoarthritis

What do I mean by “loading” your joint? If you lay down on the floor and hug your knees to your chest, yes you are going through pretty much the entire range of hip flexion (about 125 degrees) and knee flexion (about 135 degrees), but you are not applying any force to that joint because you are laying down. There’s no pressure or weight being supported. Research shows that in order to maintain good blood flow and health of the joint, weight needs to be applied to the joint.

Daily Movement For Managing Hip and Knee Osteoarthritis with Loaded Joint Movements

You may be thinking, ‘well…how do I add load to the joint?’ In certain countries, the toilet is simply a hole in the ground, which requires them to perform a full range and loaded squat. These are the countries that have lower rates of OA than us because they load their joint every day, multiple times per day. Obviously, that is not what our toilets are like, and I doubt anyone will be installing this in their homes.

So, we have to actively add these movements into our day to day routine! A fantastic movement for hip and knee osteoarthritis is to execute a sumo squat throughout the day, multiple times. The sumo squat involves dropping your buttocks as close to the ground as possible while still keeping your balance with your feet flat on the ground.

This may be very difficult for a lot of people because this range is RARELY performed. Start out small. Never go into pain, hold onto something for support, try one leg at a time. This simple exercise should be performed every day, multiple times per day as long as it doesn’t hurt.

It may help reduce your chances of developing hip and knee OA, or you may have more pain free years or reduced pain years. If you are concerned you may have knee or hip OA, a thorough physiotherapy examination and a customized exercise program can significantly reduce pain, improve mobility, reduce your chances of needing surgery, and speed up recovery if surgery is required. One of our physiotherapists would be happy to help with any of your OA needs or concerns. You can give us a call, book online, or email us!