7 Simple Home Exercises for Knee Osteoarthritis

The knee is the largest joint in the body. People use it heavily every day as they walk, run, climb, or jump. As a result, it is also very prone to injury and pain. When these occur, a doctor may recommend exercises to help a person strengthen the muscles around the knee. Muscles around the knee as well as hip and ankle help in stabilizing the knee. Thus, the exercises of hip and ankle muscles also help in alleviating knee pain.

In this video, I, Dr. Anurag Mittal, an orthopaedic surgeon, will walk you through some of the most effective exercises you can do at home to strengthen your knee and reduce the knee pain of osteoarthritis and other knee injuries. These exercises can be performed by the young as well as elderly for the prevention of knee pain.

Exercises

1. Quads Contraction

2. Knee Squeeze

3. Straight Leg Raising/ Leg lifts

4. Ankle Contraction

5. Side Raises

6. Hip Extension/ Reverse Straight Leg Raising

7. Knee Flexion/ Hamstring Curls

1. Quads Contraction

Muscles involved: Quadriceps (front of the thigh)

How to do it:

  • Lie on your back with your one knee straight and other bent.
  • A small towel can be rolled up and placed underneath your straight knee for comfort and to give you something to push your knee into.
  • Tighten the muscle on the top of your thigh by pressing the back of your knee into the towel.
  • Hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds. Then relax.
  • Repeat 5-10 times.
  • Switch sides and repeat.

What not to do:

  • Do not arch your back
  • Do not lift your ankle or hip

2. Knee Squeeze

Muscles involved: Hip Adductor muscles (inner thigh muscles)

How to do it:

  • Lie on your back with both knees bent
  • Keep a rolled towel between your knees
  • Squeeze the towel with both knees
  • Hold for 5-10 seconds and relax
  • Repeat for 5-10 times.

What not to do

  • Do not lift your back or hip
  • Keep towel between knees, not thighs.
  • Do not hold your breath, keep taking breaths during knee squeeze

3. Straight Leg Raising/ Leg lifts

Muscles involved: Front hip muscles, Quadriceps (front of the thigh) and abdominal (stomach) muscles.

How to do it:

  • Lie down on the floor with the back flat. Use a yoga mat, folded blanket, or exercise mat for comfort on a hard floor.
  • Keep the left leg straight and bend the right leg slightly at the knee, bringing the foot closer to the body.
  • Pull the abdominal muscles inward by imagining the belly button pulling down toward the floor. Doing this should bring the lower back down against the floor and help provide extra support during the exercise. You can place a hand beneath the lower back to make sure that there is no space between the small of the back and the floor (not shown in video). If there is space for the hand, gently push the lower back down on top of the hand.
  • Slowly lift the left leg without bending the knee. Keep the toes pointed toward the ceiling and stop when the leg is in comfortable position off the floor. You can flex and extend the ankle for added difficulty.
  • Hold the left leg up for 5-10 seconds.
  • Slowly lower the leg back down to the floor. Do not put it down too quickly or let it drop.
  • Repeat 5-10 more times with the same leg.
  • Switch sides and repeat.

What not to do?

  • Do not let the back arch during the exercise.
  • Do not jerk or bounce the leg or lift it above the knee on the bent leg.
  • People who have osteoporosis or a back compression fracture should not perform this exercise.

Things to Keep in Mind

The knee of the raised leg should remain straight throughout this exercise—totally straight. Focus on lifting by using the muscles on the front of your hip joint. This exercise can be made more challenging by placing a 2- or 3-pound cuff weight on your ankle before you lift or by placing a resistance band around both ankles.

4. Ankle contraction

Muscles involved: Calf Muscles (back of the leg), and front leg muscles

How to do it:

  • Lie down on your back
  • Keep left knee straight and right knee bent
  • Pull your ankle towards you
  • Now, pull your ankle down, away from the body
  • Again, hold for 5-10 seconds and relax
  • Switch sides and repeat.
  • Repeat this cycle for 5-10 times

What not to do:

  • Do not bend the knee which you are exercising

5. Side Raises

Muscles involved: Hip abductor muscles (outer thigh muscles)

How to do it:

  • Lie on your back with both knees straight
  • Raise the left leg sideways keeping your knees straight
  • Hold in the side position for 5-10 seconds and relax
  • Switch sides and repeat
  • Repeat this cycle for 5-10 times

What not to do:

  • Do not bend your knees
  • Raise sideways to a comfortable position. Do not overdo it
  • Don’t forget to breath

6. Hip Extension

Muscles involved: Gluteus muscle (muscle in the back of the hip), lower back muscles, hamstrings

How to do it:

  • Lie straight on your stomach
  • Raise the leg towards the ceiling/sky with knee straight
  • Hold for 5-10 seconds and relax
  • Switch sides and repeat.
  • Repeat this cycle for 5-10 times

What not to do:

  • Do not bend the knee

7. Knee flexion

Muscles involved: hamstring muscles, calf muscles

How to do it:

  • Lie straight on your stomach
  • Bend the right knee towards the hip
  • Hold for 5-10 seconds and relax
  • Switch sides and repeat.
  • Repeat this cycle for 5-10 times