Knee Osteoarthritis 101

Knee Arthritis_274144778

While there are over 100 different types of arthritis, osteoarthritis is the most common. Knee osteoarthritis, specifically, is degenerative disease that breaks down the protective cartilage in the knee joint. Millions of Americans suffer with pain resulting from this cartilage deterioration. Practicing range of motion, strengthening exercises and alignment techniques to help support the proper alignment of the knee joint can slow down the progression of osteoarthritis or potentially prevent it entirely.

The Facts

Knee osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative disease of the cartilage in the knee joint. It most commonly (but not always) affects people over 50 years old. Due to everyday wear and tear, overuse, improper alignment, or an acute injury that didn’t heal properly, the protective cartilage in the knee joint gradually deteriorates. As the cartilage deteriorates, painful friction develops between the bones of the knee, specifically the tibia (shin bone) and the femur (thigh bone). Simple activities like walking or climbing stairs can become incredibly painful as the disease progresses.

The Symptoms

Symptoms of knee OA include pain, stiffness, swelling, tenderness, loss of flexibility and strength, decreased range of motion, grinding or grating in the joint and bone spurs.

What Is Happening

Knee OA is the deterioration of the cartilage between the bones in the knee. The knee is made up of three main bones: the tibia (shin bone), the femur (thigh bone), and the patella (knee cap). We have cartilage between all these bones to act as a cushion and shock absorber in the knee. When the knee is subjected to years of wear and tear, the cartilage begins to break down, becoming rough and frayed. The result is painful friction between the bones. The body tries to solve the problem by sending inflammation to the knee. Unfortunately, that just stimulates scar tissue growth, which is tough and inflexible.

Why Is This Happening

Age, genetics, gender, overuse, injury, and weight are all major factors that contribute to the development of osteoarthritis. People over 50 are more most likely to develop OA, but some have a higher chance of developing it than others due to family history. Women are more likely to develop OA than men, and people whose jobs require repetitive use of the joint (especially if the movement is performed in improper alignment) have higher chances for pain and deterioration in the knee joint.

Another major factor is obesity. Each extra pound adds pressure to the joints. Though all the joints experience some added pressure from the extra weight, the joints that bear the most weight (hips, knees, ankles) get the brunt of the force, thanks to gravity.

Lifestyle Adjustments
  1. Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is directly correlated to knee injuries. The knees are designed to support a specific body weight that allows for proportional support throughout the body. When the body carries more weight than designed, the knees are forced to take on a more difficult role, essentially working overtime to keep an unbalanced body in balance. It is hypothesized that each pound of body weight over what is considered your ideal body weight yields four extra pounds of force on the knee joint, which means four extra pounds of stress. This extra weight specifically puts excess pressure on the knee joints. Over time, this excessive pressure will wear down the joint, leading to increased knee pain.
  2. Stay in shape. Maintaining a good level of overall fitness and conditioning keeps the body strong and more resistant to injury. Many injuries occur in “weekend warrior” athletes—those who are not in good shape and do not work out consistently, but play sports on weekends. When we become fatigued, our form and technique can begin to break down. By staying in shape during the week through a combination of resistance training and cardio, we can gain the strength and endurance to avoid injury on weekends. Remember to warm up your body prior to any physical activity, and stretch at the end.
  3. Stand tall. Pain can be exacerbated by a lack of proportion in the general knee region. Practice standing tall to help bring the body back into proportion, potentially helping to prevent injury. To stand tall, ground the feet by pushing the bases of toes and heels into the ground, engage your abdominals by drawing the belly in toward your back and up toward your ribs, and lengthen your side body by creating as much space as possible between your ribs and hips.
Prevent It
  1. Ground the feet. To prevent arthritis in the knees requires attention to not only the knees, but also the body parts above and below. The feet are the base of your body. By grounding the feet, you set your body up for proportional success. Ground the feet by pressing the bases of the toes and the heels into the floor and equalizing the weight distribution between each individual foot. Now, equalize the weight between the right foot and the left foot. Feel the earth supporting you. Choose three activities you do every day when you can practice grounding your feet. For example, practice grounding the feet while brushing your teeth, making coffee, and washing your face.
  2. Stabilize the hips. The hips are a massive bone structure at the body’s center. They support the weight of the entire torso and are the junction between the legs and the upper body. Because of their location and sheer size, if the pelvis/hips are out of alignment, this can affect almost every other part of the body, including, but not limited to, the knee joints. The goal in stabilizing the hips is to bring them back to proper alignment so all the muscles, tendons, and ligaments are in proportion with one another and can perform most efficiently with the least amount of pain. To stabilize the hips, imagine your sit bones—the bones protruding from the middle of each butt cheek—opening wide. At the same time, engage the abdominals by pulling your lower belly in toward the lower back and up toward to the ribs. Now, lengthen the side body by creating as much space as possible between the hips and the ribs. You can strengthen the hips simply by practicing this technique while seated a few times a day.
  3. Organize the shoulders. The alignment of the shoulder girdle directly affects the overall proportion of the body, that, in turn, puts undue stress on the knee. Strain or tightness in one shoulder can affect the torque of the hip, which affects the alignment of the knee. This misalignment affects how the body moves in space. When walking, for example, a misaligned shoulder (and therefore, hip) forces the knee out of alignment when the foot strikes the ground. You will be amazed by how organizing the shoulders—aligning the shoulder girdle—adjusts positioning to bring the entire body into better alignment. To organize the shoulders, open the collarbones wide by reaching them east and west. Now, plug the tips of your shoulder blades down your back. Practice organizing your shoulders while seated for long periods of time, at a dinner table, office desk, or in the car.
Fix It

There is no way to “fix” OA in any joint. Keep in mind, however, that the body is designed with a certain amount of space in each joint and when body alignment is off, the space between the bones in the joint decreases, causing friction between the bones, bursas (fluid-filled sacs that act as shock absorbers), muscles, tendons, and ligaments. This friction causes inflammation, which ultimately leads to pain. When a joint is already weakened by arthritis, the goal is to minimize as much inflammation (and therefore, potential pain) as possible by keeping the body in alignment. Alignment techniques, such as grounding the feet, stabilizing the hips and organizing the shoulders, aid in restoring alignment. A knee plagued by arthritis often needs additional support by the muscles above and below the knee—calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, abductors, and adductors—to help maintain stability. Simple leg exercises will increase muscular strength. A combination of alignment techniques and muscle-strength exercises is the most efficient way to ensure pain relief.

Exercises

Double Heel Raise Balance with Chair Assist


  1. Place a chair in front of you with the back of the chair facing your front body. Stand tall with feet hip-distance apart and toes forward. Gently place finger stems over the top of the chair.
  2. Ground feet by pushing the bases of toes and heels into the floor. Using the chair to support you, lift heels off floor to balance on bases of all ten toes. Equalize weight between base of big toes and base of pinky toes.
  3. Inhale; lengthen the side body—create space between the ribs and hips. Exhale; empty by drawing the belly in toward the back and up toward the ribs.
  4. Hold for 3 breath cycles. Rest and repeat 8 times.

Squatting 


  1. Start standing with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Reach arms long by sides to frame the body. This is start position.
  2. Bend knees, hinge at hips, and reach arms back behind the body to come into a squat position. Position knees in line with ankles. Now, move back to start position.
  3. Inhale; lengthen the side body—the space between the ribs and hips. Exhale; squat and empty by drawing the belly in toward the back and up toward the ribs.
  4. Continue for 12 breath cycles.

Step-Back Lunge


  1. Start standing with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Bring hands to sternum in Eastern Prayer Mudra (hands sealed with finger stems pointing north), and pull the elbows wide. This is start position.
  2. Step one foot back, coming into a wide stance, with both feet pointing forward and back heel lifted off the ground. Bend both knees, lowering until legs form a 90-degree angle. Organize front knee directly above ankle and back knee directly in line with hip. Return to start position.
  3. Inhale; lengthen the side body—the space between the ribs and hips. Exhale; step back to lunge, empty by drawing the belly in toward the back and up toward the ribs.
  4. Continue for 12 breath cycles and follow with the alternate side.

Side-Lying Abductor Leg Raises


 

  1. Lie on the side of the body with the bottom arm stretched upward long and flat on the mat. Bend bottom knee to 90 degrees, place top hand in front of the chest, and rest the side of the head on the outstretched arm.
  2. Reach long through the top leg and strongly press the hands into the floor. This is start position.
  3. Lift top leg to hip level and reach long through the toes. Lower the leg to start position.
  4. Inhale; lengthen side body and lift top leg to hip level. Exhale; empty by drawing the lower belly in toward the lower back and up toward the ribs, and lower the leg to start position.
  5. Continue for 12 breath cycles and follow with the alternate side.

Triangle Mudra with Empty

  1. Start supine with knees bent and feet grounded. Take hands to Triangle Mudra by touching the sides of the index fingers and tips of the thumbs to make a triangle.
  2. Place Triangle Mudra on the lower belly, with thumbs underlining the navel and fingertips pointing to the pubic bone.
  3. Inhale; stretch elbows east and west. Exhale; press hands into the belly.
  4. Inhale; stretch elbows east and west. Exhale; press hands into the belly, while pulling belly in toward the back and up toward the rib cage.
  5. Repeat for 12 breath cycles.

Supine Leg Lifts


  1. Start supine with hands resting on stomach. Bend one knee and ground the foot into the mat. Extend the alternate leg long. This is start position.
  2. Lift the extended leg until it aligns with the bent knee, and return back to start position.
  3. Inhale; ground the foot by pushing the base of the toes and heel into the mat. Exhale; activate the core and lift the extended leg up to align with the bent knee, then lower back to start position.
  4. Perform 3 sets of 25 repetitions. Repeat with the alternate leg.

Side-Lying Adductor Raises


  1. Lie on the side of the body with legs long and the bottom arm stretched upward long and flat on the mat. Bend top knee and place foot on the floor in front of outstretched bottom leg. Place top hand in front of the chest, and rest the side of the head on the outstretched arm.
  2. Reach long through the outstretched leg, flex the ankle, and strongly press the hands into the floor. This is start position.
  3. Lift bottom leg a few inches off the ground, and reach long through the toes. Lower the leg to start position.
  4. Inhale; lengthen the side bodies, and raise top leg a few inches off the ground. Exhale; empty by drawing the lower belly in toward the lower back and up toward the ribs, and lower the leg to start position.
  5. Continue for 12 breath cycles and follow with the alternate side.

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Yoffie Life disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.