What is Osteoarthritis (OA) of the Knee?
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting millions of people around the world. Osteoarthritis occurs when the protective cartilage on the ends of your bones wears down over time. No cure exists.
While osteoarthritis can damage any joint in your body including hands, neck, lower back, knees and hips, Osteoarthritis of the Knees is one of the most common forms of osteoarthritis, affecting millions of people.
In the knee, the structures most prone to wear are the joint cartilages of the femur and patella bones and the shock absorbing medial and lateral menisci. The degradation of joint tissues leads to deformities in the joint that cause things like clicking, grinding, and joint locking. These changes in the joint will eventually lead to pain and dysfunction.
Move it or Lose It
Years ago, arthritis was treated with rest and immobilization. Scientists have since learned that locking up the joints actually makes them worse. New research published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that exercise and physical therapy are just as effective as surgery for relief from chronic knee pain related to arthritis. Keeping the knees moving, and the muscles around the joints strong contributes greatly to protecting the joints and staving off additional damage caused by arthritis.
But a lot of clients with arthritis are reluctant to engage in physical activity because of pain or fear of pain, fear of worsening symptoms or damaging joints. The problem is that rest and lack of exercise or activity may lead to muscular atrophy and a decrease in joint mobility, which is precisely why exercise is now recommended.
Clients need to be educated that most chronic OA knee pain is avoidable. Learning to strengthen and stretch key muscles that support the knees can increase mobility and ultimately prolong knee health.
To help understand how a Pilates exercise and rehab program will optimize knee function Pilates can help OA knees, it is important to understand the way knees work.
The Knee Joint
The knee is largest and most complicated joint in the entire body. It actually has two joints: The big hinge joint that is like a giant knuckle is called the tibia femoral joint; the other knee joint is the patella femoral joint. The knee’s primary action or movement is flexion and extension in the Saggital plane of movement. In full extension, the knee is locked in and very stable, because it rotates into itself medially and “screws home”. But it is also very vulnerable. When you flex your knee, things loosen up. Because of the way it is designed, the knee joint lacks what is called intrinsic stability, and therefore its stability and mobility rely on the ligaments and muscles which surround it for support. An imbalance in the ligament and/or muscle strength will affect the function of the knee.
Ligaments & Muscles Surrounding the Knee
The ligaments provide anterior and posterior stability. They become vulnerable when the knee is twisted or hit from an angle. The muscles around the knee create movement and support the joint. The muscles that support the knee are the Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Hip abductors, adductors and external rotators and the lower leg muscles. When all these muscles work in perfect harmony, our knees will keep us going for a lifetime without any problems.
How Pilates May Help Osteoarthritis
Pilates, because of its focus on postural alignment, form, balance, precision, and control, its practice helps increase flexibility, maintain joint movement and build supporting muscle strength. As a result, Pilates is one of the best exercise forms slowing down the progression of the OA in the knees and reducing pain because of its principals including:
Pilates makes the most out of mobility without increasing pain or risking injury.
It’s gentle, doesn’t stress your joints or add burden to ligaments and cartilage that surround the joints.
Mental focus is used to perfect movements and muscle control.
Awareness of proper spine position is vital while exercising.
Development of deep muscles of the back and abdomen supports proper posture. Subtle improvements in posture may result in fewer aches and pains, too, up and down the kinetic chain.
Breathing techniques are used to promote mental focusing and centering.
Strengthening and lengthening increases flexibility in the muscles.
Stretching is thought to help with blood flow and the delivery of nutrients to muscles and tendons. Better circulation may also relieve aches and stiffness.
Focus on balance helps lessens risks of falling.