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For more information, go to www.arthritisresearchuk.org

How do I find out about exercises to strengthen my quadriceps muscules?

Q) I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis about six years ago, when I was an active 66-year-old, walking six miles regularly, cycling and ballroom dancing. I've been told I need my right knee replacing, which I really don’t want. I have discomfort in walking beyond 200 yards. I swim 30 lengths three times a week and do aquarobics, and take glucosamine and chondroitin, omega-3 and rosehip pills. I don't take painkillers, and cortisone injections don't help. I'm two stone overweight, which I'm trying to lose, and wondered if exercises to strengthen my quadriceps (thigh) muscles would help. How do I find out about them?
Doreen Fildes, Formby, Liverpool (Spring 2008) 

A) Great! Lots of self-help and determination. Exercises certainly help. It's particularly important to keep the quadriceps muscles strong when arthritis of the knee is present because these muscles are important stablilisers of the knee and act as very efficient shock absorbers for the leg. Any knee arthritis will cause an automatic weakening of the quadriceps muscle – you can’t help this as it's an automatic response – but you can work to counter the weakness by doing exercises. Weight loss will, as you have identified, also help as it reduces the forces acting on your knee, especially when the knee is working hard on stairs and such like. The two main ingredients of weight loss are diet and exercise. Unfortunately, when you have arthritis you're already disadvantaged with the second of these elements so try and do some non-weight bearing exercise, such as swimming (as you already know).

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