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Whether you’re young or old, an athlete or not, knee pain can hamper you from performing daily tasks or favorite activities. Knee pain is a very common issue that millions of people experience each year. It can be caused by a variety of factors, including knee stiffness, incorrect positioning of the knee cap, flat feet, improper form during exercise, weakness of muscles in the hips and knees, and the like.
When you already have existing knee pain, the last thing on your mind is to move around and exercise. But here’s the thing that you might not be aware of: exercising can help reduce pain as well as improve your flexibility, increase your range of motion, and strengthen your muscles. In this article, we’ll be going over some of the most effective knee strengthening exercises that you can do to relieve pain and fortify your muscles. Check them out!
Can Knee Pain Be Cured by Exercise?
Gentle stretching exercises can help relieve knee pain caused by many conditions. One of the most common orthopedic health conditions in sports medicine is called the patellofemoral pain syndrome which typically causes a dull, aching pain in the front of the knee.
It can be made worse by daily activities such as squatting, going up or down the stairs, or standing up after sitting for a long period of time. Irritation of the cartilage underneath the kneecap happens when it does not glide or seat properly, leading to pain.
Exercises such as stretching can help loosen the tight muscles on the side of the knee that may be pulling the kneecap out of its groove. Performing knee exercises regularly can aid the muscles around the knee to get stronger and become more stable, absorbing shock during weight-bearing activities. When your muscles are stable, your joints will undergo less friction and less wear-and-tear.
Is Walking Good for Knee Pain?
It may feel like it’s counterintuitive to exercise when you’re experiencing knee pain but walking actually provides a number of benefits to your knees. Walking is a great option for many patients as it is a low-impact exercise that does not put undue stress on the joints. It can lubricate your joints, protect your knees, increase the blood flow to your tissues, build muscle strength, and help with weight loss to decrease pressure on the knee joint. Moreover, walking can increase the range of motion of your knees and keep them from becoming overly stiff.
Consistency and moderation are important when it comes to doing walking exercises with knee pain. Wellness professionals recommended patients do about 10 to 15 minutes of walking per day and eventually work their way up to 30 minutes per day.
What is the Best Exercise for Knee Pain?
If your knee isn’t at its best, the best exercise that you can do are straight leg raises. This simple strengthening exercise can improve the flexibility of your front thigh muscles (quadriceps) and the abdominal muscles. This move puts little to no strain on the knee. There are two ways to do this exercise: one on your back and one while seated.
To do this, you’ll need a yoga mat, a folded blanket, or an exercise mat to lie down on and be comfortable on the hard floor. As you lie down, keep your left leg straight and bend the right leg slightly at the knee, bringing your foot closer to the body. Next, pull your ab muscles inward by imagining the belly button pulling down toward the floor. Place a hand beneath your lower back to ensure that there is no space between the small of the back and the floor. If there is space for the hand, gently push your lower back down on top of the hand.
Slowly lift your left leg without bending the knee. Keep your toes pointed toward the ceiling and stop when your leg is about 12 inches off the floor. Your left leg should not be higher than the bent knee on the right leg. Hold your left leg up for 5 seconds. Slowly lower the leg back down to the floor. Repeat two more times with the same leg, switch sides, and repeat.
A second way to do straight leg raise exercises is to stay seated in a chair with your knees bent. Let your feet dangle above the ground. You can add pillows to the seat of the chair if necessary. Next, hold onto the sides of the chair for stability. Extend one leg slowly until it is nearly parallel to the floor. Try to keep the leg as straight as possible without locking your knee. Pause briefly, holding the leg straight, and then return to the starting position. Repeat with the other leg. Perform 3 sets of 12 repetitions on each side.
Knee Strengthening Exercises
These knee exercises have been proven by research to reduce pain and improve your ability to participate in various activities. Gradually adding exercises to your routine can help with the aches you experience. Remember to start slowly and build up over time.
Before you start with an exercise program, be sure to talk to your physical therapist or a healthcare professional to ensure that these knee exercises are safe for you to perform. Depending on your condition, you may be recommended to modify some of the exercises.
Side-Lying Leg Raise
This exercise strengthens the muscles on the outside of the hip. Lie on your right side with your legs straight, your right forearm bent upward and your head resting on your hand. Bend your left knee so that the left foot is behind your body. Slowly raise the right leg until it makes a 45-degree angle with the rest of the body.
Try to keep your top leg as straight as possible when raised. Pause with your leg raised 45 degrees, and then start a controlled lowering to the starting position. Remember to keep your hips straight and still throughout the movement. Repeat each raise 8 to 12 times on each side.
This movement can strengthen the back of your lower legs, which includes your calf muscles. To do this, stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart as a starting position. You can stand next to a wall or hold on to the back of a chair for support. Lift both your heels off the ground so that you’re standing on the balls of your feet. Slowly lower your heels to the starting position. Do 2 to 3 sets of repetitions.
Step exercises work a variety of muscles including the hip flexors, quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteal muscles. The stairs or a platform are needed to perform this exercise. First, step onto the bottom step of the stairs with your right foot. Next, bring up your left foot, then step down with your right foot, followed by your left foot. You can hold onto the banister, wall, or chair if necessary. Repeat the movements with each leg until you can’t do it anymore. Rest for one minute and repeat another two times.
Knee exercises that involve the quadriceps can help keep added pressure off your knees. To do this, sit up tall in a chair and put your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Look straight ahead and contract your thigh muscles. Extend one of your legs as high as possible without raising your buttocks off the chair. Pause, then lower your feet back on the ground. Do 2 to 3 sets of 10 repetitions for each leg.
Standing Hamstring Curls
This exercise can help reduce hip pain and keep your upper body steady to take pressure off your joints. Stand upright with your knees only 1-2 inches apart. Hold on to a stable chair, a countertop, or another object for balance. Slowly bend one knee behind your body, lifting one foot off the floor while keeping your thighs aligned.
Continue to lift your foot in a smooth motion until your knee bend reaches a 90-degree angle. Keep your straight leg bent slightly to avoid locking it. Hold your raised leg up for 5 seconds and then slowly bring it to the floor. Repeat the motion two more times on the same leg before switching slides to repeat with the other leg.
This stretch can be done in two ways: standing or laying down on your back. First, let’s learn how to do it while standing. Position yourself with your feet no more than shoulder-width apart. Bend at the hips slightly and extend one leg out a few inches in front of your body. Allow your other leg to bend slightly.
While keeping your back straight, slowly draw your chest downward. Bend as far as you can without causing pain and hold for 30 seconds. Gently bring your leg back toward the body and stand up straight. If you started with your right side, repeat this exercise with your left side.
To do this on your back, you’ll need a yoga mat or a towel. Grasp one of your legs with both hands behind the thigh. Extend your leg to lift your foot toward the ceiling. Flex your foot and straighten your leg as much as possible without locking your knee to feel a stretch along the back of your thigh. Hold, return to the initial position, and switch legs to repeat the motions. You can pull your leg closer to your chest if you want to feel a deeper stretch.
Knee exercises can help in reducing the stress on your knee joint by regularly working your muscles. Having strong muscles can provide support for the knees which can prevent injury and alleviate any pain that you may experience. Do take note that if you feel any form of discomfort while performing any of the exercises, it’s best to stop and seek the advice of your physical therapist.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the fastest way to cure knee pain?
You can temporarily cure knee pain using medication or a cold/hot compress. However, the best solution that you can do for your body is to undergo physical therapy and do gentle exercises daily. Exercising can help you gain stronger, more flexible muscles, and alleviate your aches in the long run.