Whether you have long term or short term pain in one or both knees, knee pain relief exercises can be helpful.
Roughly a quarter of American adults suffer from knee pain, and the condition has become more prevalent by almost 65 percent over 20 years.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC ) reports that a third of Americans had experienced knee pain at some point.
It might seem counterproductive to exercise a bad knee, but exercise can alleviate pain, strengthen muscles, and control the swelling and stiffness associated with arthritis.
Exercise makes supporting muscles stronger and better able to absorb shock. Exercise also keeps the knee joint from losing its range of motion.
What are the causes of knee pain?
Knee pain can be caused by a medical condition or an injury. Usually a ruptured ligament or damaged cartilage.
Medical conditions like arthritis, infections, and gout are also a common cause of knee pain.
People who suffer from knee pain will respond by resting from strenuous physical activity, going for physical therapy, wearing braces, and sometimes going for surgery.
Your body can develop knee pain as a symptom of any one of these conditions:
- Arthritis, which deteriorates the joints
- Rheumatoid Arthritis, when the joint is swollen, and eventually deformed
- Tendinitis, which causes pain especially when climbing
- Baker’s Cyst, when synovial fluid builds up in the knee joint
- Bursitis, which is inflammation from constant overexertion of knees
- Bone tumors
- Chondromalacia patella, when the cartilage underneath the kneecap is damaged
- Torn ligament, usually the anterior cruciate ligament
- Gout, when uric acid builds up, causing arthritis symptoms
- Meniscus tear, when knee cartilage is ruptured
What are some exercises for knee pain relief?
Gentle exercises help your knee to become stronger and more flexible without straining it. In the rest of this article, we will go over a few knee pain relief exercises.
1. Leg raises from a lying Position
Lie down on your bed or floor. Keep your arms straight along the sides of your body and your toes pointing upwards.
Tighten the muscles of one leg while slowly lifting it upwards by several inches. As you lower your leg, tighten your abdominal muscles and count to five. Repeat the exercise with the other leg.
Do four repeats on each leg for a start, and increase the count as you become more comfortable.
Leg raises are good because they make your quadriceps stronger. Quadriceps are large thigh muscles attached to the knee joint.
2. Hamstring stretch while lying down
Lie down with your legs bent. Lift one leg slowly without straightening it and bring the knee back, closer to your chest.
Hold your hands together behind the thigh of the raised leg and straighten it, pulling the leg toward your head.
Hold the stretch for 30 seconds or longer and then bend the knee slowly, lowering that leg back to its original position on the floor. Do this once for each leg.
This knee pain relief exercise strengthens the hamstring muscles which connect the back of the thigh and the knees.
3. Half squats
Don’t let the word ‘squat’ scare you. Half squats should not cause any pain.
Stand with your feet aligned to your shoulders and stretch your arms out before you. Bend your knees into a half-sitting stance. Hang on to a chair if you are having trouble balancing.
Do not lean forward – your chest should be upright and back straight, feet flat and facing forward. Stay in the position for 5 seconds, before standing up slowly. Start with 10 reps or less, and work your way up to 3 sets.
4. Single leg dips
Stand with two chairs on either side that you can hold on to for balance. Raise one leg 12 inches in front and bend the other leg slowly, lowering your body by a couple of inches.
Pretend that you are trying to sit on a chair. Avoid crossing one leg over the other and maintain a straight back throughout.
Hold this position for 5 seconds. Four single leg dips are enough per leg for a start. Eventually, you can work your way up to three sets of four.
This knee pain relief exercise is good for the hamstring discomfort, thigh muscles on both sides, and the buttocks.
5. Leg stretches
Start this knee pain relief exercise by sitting on the floor with your back straight and stretching out your legs before you.
Set your hands on the floor beside your hips on either side. Gradually bend one knee to the point of feeling stretched but not painful.
Hold it there for 5 seconds, then stretch the leg and hold for another 5 seconds. Switch legs and repeat 10 times.
This exercise is good for stronger quadriceps.
Good old traditional walking is one of the safest forms of knee pain relief exercise. Walking will not result in injury for people who are overweight or have chronic knee pain.
To make the exercise safe, avoid walking on steep slopes and wear safe, comfortable shoes for walking.
Start with one leisurely 20-minute walk per day. With time you will be able to walk faster and for a longer distance.
7. Standing hamstring curls
Stand upright, leaving two inches between your knees. Stand next to a chair or other piece of furniture which will help you to balance.
Gradually bend one knee behind your body, keeping your thighs aligned as your heel lifts off the floor in a smooth motion until your knee is bent at 90 degrees.
The straight leg should be slightly bent, not locked. Hold the stretch for 5 seconds before slowly lowering your heel back to its original position on the floor.
Three reps per leg are enough for a start.
Avoid pointing your toes while lifting the leg and keep the ‘resting’ leg neutral and flat, not flexed. This exercise engages the hamstrings and glutes.
8. Step exercises
This is one of my favorite knee pain relief exercises. For this exercise, you need an exercise platform that is 6 inches tall or less.
If you want to be extra cautious, do it on a flat surface without a raised platform.
Step on the platform with one foot. Rest on this foot for five seconds and allow the other foot to hang behind the other foot.
Put your feet back on the floor and repeat the movement, switching feet.
This knee pain relief exercise strengthens hamstring muscles, quadriceps, glutes, and hip flexors. Avoid locking your knees.
Keep them a little bent to avoid foot pain. Keep the stepping foot entirely on the platform. Do it without a platform if you struggle with balance.
9. Side steps with resistance band
Wear a resistance band encircling your ankles as you stand feet together and knees slightly bent. Your toes should be pointing ahead as you take small steps in one direction and then the other.
This exercise makes your glutes and hips stronger. Start with smaller steps.
10. Calf stretch and ankle mobility
Put the ball of one foot on the edge of a platform and lower the heel of that foot, sinking gently into a calf stretch.
Hold the same position for 30 seconds and then switch legs. This helps to release stiff ankles, making movement easy for the entire leg. This exercise is good for mobility in the lower leg.
11. Fire hydrant
You need help with balance for this one, so put one hand on a wall as you stand on one leg.
Raise the free leg to an angle of 45 degrees or as high as you can. Return the leg to its original position and repeat the move five times.
If you can do it five times, try doing it without leaning a hand on the wall.
Keep the standing leg firm. Do five reps at a time. Add more sets once you are comfortable doing five reps. Remember these knee pain relief exercises are meant to help your knees get stronger — don’t overdo it.
Don’t rush it if you’re just recovering from knee pain. Exercise safely, without putting excess pressure on your knee. Always discuss your exercise regime with your doctor.
Pay attention to your body too. Exercise can be mildly uncomfortable but it should never cause pain, stiffness, or swelling.