The knee is one of the most complex joints in the body. It is responsible for bearing all of the weight of the body while moving in different directions. Because there are so many moving parts, many different things can go wrong, causing knee injury, misalignment and pain. According to the American Academy of Pain Medicine, 1 in 5 people will experience knee pain at sometime.
There are many causes of knee pain ranging from injury, wear-and-tear, or mechanical issues, that can arise at any age. But you don’t have to let it set you back for long. Low impact exercises that include strength training and flexibility can help prevent and counteract pain. Regular movement helps keep the joint supple, and strengthening exercises build support in the muscles above and below the knee.
- Hamstring stretches
Your hamstring runs from your hips down to cross your knees. Getting more flexible in these large muscles can help ease knee pain.
Sitting, or laying on your back, loop a belt or yoga strap around the ball of your foot. Straighten your leg and pull back on the strap until you feel a stretch across the entire back of the leg.
- Calf stretches
When your calves are tight, your knees can to buckle inward slightly, causing pain.
Stand on the edge of a curb or step and place one foot on the ground, keeping the ball of your other foot on the step. Allow the heel of your foot to drop below the step and hold it for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
- Hip stretches
Stretching the muscles that rotate the hips has a positive domino effect on the knees.
For a Figure Four stretch, place your ankle over the opposite knee and squat down until you feel a stretch. If balance is an issue, this exercise can also be done while laying on your back. Bring the uncrossed leg up off the floor to feel this stretch.
For a hip flexor stretch, lie on your stomach and loop a yoga strap around one foot. Gently pull the strap so your heel moves toward your glutes. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
Though squats are often falsely accused of hurting your knees, when done correctly, squats can actually prevent knee pain. The form is key.
Keep your back straight, with a neutral spine and your chest and shoulders up. Look straight ahead. As you squat down, focus on keeping your knees in line with your feet.
- Inner thigh lifts
The inner thigh muscles contribute to knee stability, but they are often weak and dominated by the strong muscles of the outer thigh and gluteus maximus.
Lie on your side with your head resting on your arm. It works for your knee, bend your top leg and place the foot on the floor behind your bottom leg. On inhalation, engage the muscles of the left inner thigh to lift the left leg. Lower down as you exhale. Repeat two or three sets of ten on both legs.
- Straight leg raise
Strengthening the large muscles around your knees can prevent knee pain from injury.
Lying flat on your back, bend one leg and place the foot on the floor. Straighten the other. Pull the toes of the straight leg towards you and tighten and clench the muscle on the front of the thigh, locking your knee straight. Lift your foot up about 6 inches off the bed. Hold for 3-5 secs and slowly lower it back down.
- The bridge
This strengthening exercise works two or three muscles at the same time.
Lie on your back with both knees bent about 90 degrees and your feet on the floor. Clench your glutes and lift your hips off the bed as high as you can without arching your back. Hold for 3-5 seconds and slowly lower. Repeat 10-25 times.
- One leg standing
Improving your balance will keep your knees stable lessing your chance of pain causing injury.
Stand near a wall or chair for support. Lift up your good leg and stand on one leg for as long as you can. It is normal to wobble a bit. Switch legs. Spend 5 minutes doing this 2x daily.
- Knee Marching
Regular movement is important to prevent knee stiffness.
Sit in a chair with your feet on the floor. March your legs up and down one at a time. Lift your knee and foot up and then back down. Repeat for about 1 minute 2 x daily and any time you are sitting for more than 20 minutes.
- Low impact exercises
Yoga, swimming and walking are low impact exercises that gently strengthen the entire lower body and build knee strength. Researchers at the University of California San Francisco found people who walked at least three days each week for up to two hours each day had the healthiest knee cartilage.
Regularly practicing this exercises really can make a difference in knee pain. Improving strength and flexibility changes the support around the knee and how forces travel through the joint, reducing pain and improving function.
If knee pain persists or you experience sharp pain during any of these exercises, stop the motion and consult a medical professional. At Arizona Pain and Spine, our highly-trained and experienced pain specialists can provide safe and effective treatment solutions for knee pain.
Call us at 480-986-7246 to make an appointment and start feeling relief from knee pain and get back to doing the things you love.