If you have chronic knee pain, you may feel like exercise is the last thing you want to do because it’s so hard. However, it’s one of the best because of all of the benefits it provides. In fact, according to medical experts, exercise is one of the most important things you can do to treat your knee pain. The appropriate combination of stretching and strengthening exercises can alleviate pain by improving the way the joint moves/functions.
Your knee is typically an innocent bystander between your foot and your hip and knee pain is generally the result of issues occurring at the foot or the hip. For example, if your hip muscles are weak, it may put more strain on your knee, which intensifies the pain. You can relieve it by strengthening the muscles around your hip joint.
In some cases, knee pain is the result of or intensified by tight muscles around your knee, which can be treated with proper stretching. If your muscles are not flexible, your knee joint isn’t likely to move properly. Follow these tips to help you get back to a normal active lifestyle of running, playing golf and more!
What Knee Pain Conditions Can Exercise Treat?
Knee exercises and stretches can alleviate knee pain resulting from a variety of conditions, including the three that we’re going to discuss below. These three conditions are common in older women:
Patellofemoral pain is characterized by a dull, aching pain in the front of the knee. This pain is exacerbated by daily activities, such as climbing or descending stairs, squatting, and even standing up after sitting for a prolonged period of time. It is due to irritation of the cartilage under the kneecap because it’s not sitting or gliding properly.
By exercising, you can eliminate the issues that caused this irritation. Stretches can be used to loosen tight muscles on the sides of your knee that are pulling the kneecap out of place as it moves. You can also decrease discomfort by strengthening hip muscles or stretching tight muscles in the front or back of your legs.
Chronic Degenerative Meniscal Tears
Chronic degenerative meniscal tears is a knee pain condition that occurs when one or both cartilage pads that cushion your knee joints tear or deteriorate. If you have this condition, you may experience pain along with feeling like your knee is locking or sticking. In some cases, surgery is required. However, physicians typically recommend physical therapy to begin with to strengthen the muscles around the knee, which takes the pressure off the joint and ultimately reduces discomfort.
If you are age 50 or older and you are experiencing swelling, stiffness, or pain, you may be suffering from osteoarthritis. After all, years of wear and tear breaks down the cartilage in your knees, which ultimately leads to chronic inflammation in your joints. You may have sustained an injury at some point in your life that has caused arthritis. There is nothing that can be done to reverse these changes- but you can decrease pain by strengthening the muscles around your knee, as well as strengthening your pelvis and core. Strong muscles are a lot like scaffolding, they take the pressure off of your joints. Stretching increases your flexibility, which helps your joint function properly.
Know When it’s Time to See Your Doctor
When it comes to knee pain, there’s one thing you need to know: while there are lots of knee pain conditions that can be improved by exercise, there are some situations where it is not appropriate. If you are exercising for your knee pain and you experience any of the following symptoms, you need to cease and desist your exercise efforts and contact your doctor.
- Pain that worsens with activity
- Pain that is not resolving or improving
- Pain that wakes you during the night
Exercises to Use for Knee Pain
If you are interested in using exercises to ease your knee pain, medical experts say that it’s important to make sure that you are working a variety of muscles from your hamstrings and quads to your hip abductors. Two of the exercises that you should definitely add to your workout routine are the single-leg lift and the side-leg raise. This workout should be done at least 2 days a week, ideally working up to every day.
When you are creating your workout routine, how many exercises you include in each session is your decision. However, it’s important to remember that trying to rush through your routine is counterproductive. Good form is more important than volume. Make sure that you start slow with a few reps to make sure that you get the proper form. As it begins to get easier, you can add more.
Side Leg Raise
For the side leg raise, you will start by lying on your right side with legs straight. Bend your right arm and rest your head on your hand. Keeping your legs straight, slowly lift your left leg up toward the ceiling then return to your starting position. Finish all reps and then roll over and lie on your left side, lifting your right leg.
Tips & Techniques
Throughout this exercise, make sure that you keep your hips straight and still, as if you were lying against a wall. Keep your ab muscles contracted and pelvis still. Lift the active leg as high as you can without moving your hip and make sure that you are maintaining good form.
If you are just getting started, you can make it easier by lifting a shorter distance or leaning against a wall. If you are experienced and need a challenge, consider increasing your reps or tying resistance tubing around your upper thighs. Wear knee sleeves for added support.
Single Leg Lift
For the single-leg lift, you’ll start by lying on your back with your legs straight. Your hands should be resting at your sides on the floor. Slightly flex one foot as you extend your leg. Tighten thigh muscles and slowly lift your leg up until your knees line up. Hold for a few seconds and then slowly lower your leg back down to the floor. Finish all of your reps and repeat with the opposite leg.
Tips & Techniques
Make sure that you keep your abdominal muscles contracted and hips are kept on the floor as you lift your leg. As you lift, you should be exhaling.
If you’re just starting out, you can modify it to make it easier by lifting a shorter distance. On the other hand, if you’re experienced, you can try to trace the letter “T” at a slow, controlled pace. Lift your leg up 4 inches. Move 4 inches to the left and back to the center. Move 4 inches to the right and back to the center then lower leg back down to the floor. Finish all reps and switch to your other leg.
In addition to the above exercises, you need to stretch as well. You should use a foam roller to work out the kinks in your muscles. A roller will target your tight, rigid, painful muscles and myofascial tissue. This is a process known as myofascial release. It can also be done with hands-on massage and is used to relax the tissue to decrease pain by releasing tension that is causing the muscles to unnaturally pull on the knee joint.
Below, we’ll outline two stretches you can try. Ideally, you need to do 3 to 4 reps of each, holding for 10 to 30 seconds on each one.
For the hamstring stretch, you will start by lying on the floor on your back, legs straight and arms on the floor by your side. With both hands, grasp your right leg behind your thigh. Lift your right leg so that food is toward the ceiling with your foot flexed. Straighten leg as much as possible without locking your knee. You should feel the back of your right thigh being stretched. Hold for a few seconds before returning to the starting position. Repeat with the opposite leg.
Tips & Techniques
As you extend your leg toward the ceiling, you should stretch to the point where you feel mild tension, sans pressure or pain around the knee. Keep your shoulders relaxed.
If you are just starting out, you shouldn’t try to lift your leg too high, or you can use an exercise strap instead of your hands to hold your thigh. If you’ve been working out for some time, you can increase the difficulty by pulling your leg closer to your chest.
For the quadriceps stretch, you’ll start by standing on the floor with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your right knee, bringing your heel toward your right buttock. Reach back with your right hand and hold your foot. Hold the stretch for a few seconds and then lower your foot back to the floor. Repeat with the other leg.
Tips & Techniques
Make sure to maintain good posture. Bent knee should stay in line with your hip, not out to the side.
If you are just starting out, you can make it easier by lying on your stomach and placing a yoga strap around your foot. Hold both ends as you get settled and then you can use the strap to help with the stretch. Of course, if you’re experienced in working out, you can increase the difficulty by lying on your stomach and lifting your knee slightly off the floor without pulling on your foot.
When you have sore knees, exercise is the last thing on your mind. However, the truth is, it can actually help. By stretching out the muscles around the knee, you can alleviate some of that pain that you are experiencing. We’ve offered two exercises and two stretches that you can use to begin treating your knee pain. Of course, you do need to consult with your physician before starting any type of exercise program to make sure that it’s appropriate for your condition.
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