Do you suffer from knee pain? If so, you’re not alone. Almost 50 million Americans experience some form of knee pain each and every day. If you think about it, this is not that surprising. Your knees bear the weight of your body in every activity you do, from simply walking around to climbing up the stairs. The amount of weight that your knee joints bear is almost four times the amount of your total body weight. Before focusing on the topic of this post, the best exercises to relieve your knee pain, you may want to review the following posts on this website:
In short, it makes sense that your knees are the most commonly injured joint in your body.
The Importance of Exercising to Ensure Healthy Joints
If my knee hurts, why exercise? That is a very logical question. According to the American Academy of orthopedic Surgeons, “Having strong, flexible muscles is the best way to keep knees healthy and prevent further injury.” Furthermore,you know from reading the first three parts of this four part series on knee pain that strengthening your muscles will help stabilize the joints and protect them; and loosing the weight would take pressure off and lessen the wear and tear on them.
How to Exercise When Your Knee Hurts
The good thing is that even if your knees are hurting you can still do something about the knee pain. All it takes is exercising the muscles which surround your knee joints which are:
- Quadriceps—this is the muscle in front of your thigh
- Hamstrings—your back thigh muscles
- Abductor—your outside thigh muscle
- Abductor—your inside thigh muscle
By strengthening all of these muscles you will be increasing your knee strength and will be making them less susceptible to injuries. By exercising regularly your joints will feel less stiff and you will find it easier to move around and you will experience less pain.
How Do I start Exercising?
It’s a good idea to consult your doctor or physical therapist. They will tell you which exercises are right for you. Keep in mind that doing the wrong exercise can worsen your condition.
Start slowly. Building muscle strength takes time. As you get stronger, gradually increase the number of exercise repetitions or add weight to an exercise.
Do not ignore pain. Take a look at my post about training and remaining injury free.You should not feel serious pain during an exercise. You might feel discomfort because you are challenging your muscles, but not pain. If an exercise hurts, stop the exercise. Get the silly and dangerous notion out of your head that your body must adapt to pain. It’s a good way to end up in the hospital. Pain, after all, is your body warning you that something is wrong.
Do not overdo it. You should not feel serious pain after exercise. It is typical to feel stiff or a bit sore the day after you exercise. If you feel so sore that it is difficult to move, then you have overdone your exercise. Rest is the best thing for your sore muscles. One of the biggest mistakes in training and recovery is overusing tired muscles.
Ask questions. Talk to your doctor or therapist if you have any pain or are unsure of how many exercises to do, or how often to do them.
Some of the most commonly used exercises are ones that will help you to both stretch and strengthen your knee area:
Recommended Knee Stretches as The Best Exercises to Relieve Your Knee Pain
Chair Knee Extension – you want to sit in a chair and rest your foot on another chair so that your knee is at a slightly raised level. Then push your raised knee towards the floor by using your leg muscles. Hold this position for 10 seconds and release. Repeat up to 5 times per leg.
Heel Slide Extension – for this exercise you want to lie on your back with your left knee bent so that your left foot is flat on the floor. You want to slowly slide your left heel away from your body until both legs are parallel. Hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds and then return your leg to the starting position. Repeat 5 times with each leg.
Knee Flex – this is performed while sitting in a chair. Take a rolled up towel and loop it under your foot, your foot should be resting on the floor. Now gently pull on the towel with both of your hands so that your knee bends. You want to try and raise your foot about 4 inches from the floor and then hold it for 5 seconds. Release your leg and repeat 5 times with each leg.
Hamstring Stretch – this is done in a standing position. Place one foot in front of you with your toes pointing straight. Use a chair for balance and bend the opposite knee and hip slightly forward until you feel your hamstrings stretch. Make sure you are only bending forward from your hips. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds and repeat 5 times with each leg.
Recommended Strength Training Exercises
As well as stretching your muscles it is important to strengthen them as well. Perform the following exercises and only do as much as you can without causing your knees undo pain.
Wall Slide – use an exercise ball placed in the small of your back. You want to be in a sitting position with the ball between you and the wall. Slowly slide down the wall and then straighten up again by rolling the ball slowly. If you keep your feet and legs parallel this will be easier to do and ensure that your knees do not point outwards over your toes. Work up to a point where you can comfortably repeat this 5 – 10 times.
Bent Leg Raises – this is done while sitting in a chair with one leg straightened out in the air, do not lock your knee. Hold this position for up to one minute, if possible. Then bend your knee and lower your leg halfway to the floor level. Hold in this position for 30 seconds and then return to the starting position. Attempt to work up to doing at least 4 reps per leg.
Straight Leg Raises – again do this sitting in a chair while resting one foot on another chair. Lift your foot off the chair a few inches while keeping your leg straight. Hold this position for 5 seconds and then return to the resting position. Your goal should be to repeat this at least 5 times and to be able to hold your leg up for 2 minutes.
Abductor Raise – to do this exercise you want to lie on your side propped up on one elbow. Bend the leg that is directly on the floor for support. Work on lifting your top leg and holding it for 5 seconds before lowering it. Aim for 1 – 3 sets with 12 reps for each set. As this becomes easier you can use ankle weights for increased resistance.
Hamstring Curls – you want to use a solid surface for support with this exercise. You can stand with your thighs directly against a table or with your hands on a table for support. Lift your lower leg behind you until it is at a 90 degree angle, only go as far as you are comfortable with at first. Hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds and then lower slowly. If possible lift the leg again before your toes hit the floor. Aim to do 1 – 3 sets with 12 reps in each set. If you have to touch the floor in between reps at first that is fine. When this becomes easier use ankle weights to increase the intensity.
Step Ups – use a stair on low bench about 8 to 10 inches in height. Simply step up onto the stair or bench straighten your knee without letting it lock and then step down again. Try to do this at a steady pace and when comfortable use your arms to add extra intensity. Try to maintain this for at least one minute and then work up from there.
Biking – using a stationary bike is an excellent way to strengthen your knee and your range of motion. Most physiotherapists recommend this as their number one method of reducing your knee pain. Start with 5 minutes of cycling per day and then increase this amount every few days.
You do not have to use all the exercise above. A good starting point is to choose 2 or 3 exercises from each group and concentrate on doing those. When your knee feels better you can add in another exercise. If possible include biking in every day if you can.
If you find you cannot do very many reps then only do a few each time, but try to do them two or three times over the course of the day. Stretching will really help your knee joint feel less stiff and will help to reduce the amount of aches and pains you experience.
At first it may also be a good idea to ice your knee after exercising for 10 minutes. Use a bag of ice or even a pack of frozen vegetables over your knee area. It helps to place the ice pack in between a towel so that your skin does not burn from the ice. It may also help to place your leg on a chair while icing it.
I hope that you have benefited from this series on knee pain. Now, to wrap things up, I’d like to share with you one of my favorite quotes from Michael Jordan.
“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it”. – Michael Jordan
I think this quote sums up nicely why you shouldn’t let the challenge of knee pain stop you from getting on with your life. And that’s why I encourage you to take what you have learned in this post about the best exercises to relieve your knee pain and the series as a whole and use it to become a healthier person.
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