If you suffer from knee pain, whether it is the achy, weather-induced pain or chronic knee pain, the last thing you want to do is exercise or stretch. It may surprise you to learn that one of the biggest reasons behind joint pain tends to be inactivity,i or underuse. Other causes include osteoarthritis, injuries flaring up, repetitive movements during sports or work, posture issues and aging. You may want to sit out your workout if you have knee pain, but with the right guidance, doing exercises for knee pain may actually do your knees some good.
The Importance of Exercising for Knee Pain
If you experience pain in your knees, it could be connected to weaknesses elsewhere in your body. Strengthening muscles that support the knee joint will help reduce stress that can cause the pain. ii One study of women between the ages of 18 and 40 found that individuals with knee pain had weak hip muscles, suggesting that strengthening the hips and glutes could alleviate the pain. iii
Everything from arthritis to tendon injuries can benefit from exercise, and fortunately, you don’t have to be an athlete to perform exercises for knee pain. In fact, many of them you can do at your own pace in your own home, rather than requiring special equipment or a gym. You’ll want to consult with your doctor or physical therapist about your specific type of knee pain exercises, but in the meantime, consider some of the following exercisesiv when trying to treat your knee pain.
Strengthening Exercises for Knee Pain
- Straight-Leg Lift
Lay down on your back with one knee bent, foot flat on the floor, and the other knee straight. While tightening the muscles in the thigh of your straight leg, slowly raise your leg off the floor, then hold for three to five seconds. Slowly lower it down to the floor and switch sides. Try this five to ten times per leg.
Note: Avoid arching your back, and try to engage your stomach muscles to keep your back flat on the floor.
- Single-Leg Dip
Use a chair on either side of you to support your balance. Raise one leg slightly in front of you, and plant your weight on the other leg. Sit back and slowly lower yourself a few inches into a seated position. Hold this for three to five seconds, then slowly straighten back up. Repeat on the other side. Try this five to ten times per leg.
- Hamstring Curls
Use a chair or counter in front of you to balance. Slowly bend one knee to bring your foot behind you, resting your weight on the other leg. Move your heel toward the ceiling, and hold for three to five seconds, then slowly lower your leg. Repeat five to ten times per leg.
- Wall Squat
Stand up straight against a wall, squaring your head, shoulders, and back, with your feet hip-width apart. Slowly lower your body into a seated position, pushing your weight against the wall. Hold this for five to ten seconds, or longer if you’re able. Slowly slide up, and repeat five to 10 times.
Using a step or a six-inch platform, step one foot onto the platform and lift the other foot off the floor, letting it hang off the platform. Lower your hanging foot to the floor and step the other foot off the platform. Switch sides and repeat ten times per leg.
Stretches for Knee Pain
The following stretches are particularly helpful for knee osteoarthritis,v but they may also relieve other types of knee pain. Before stretching, be sure to warm up with a 5-minute walk.
- Hamstring Stretch
Lay down and loop a bedsheet or towel around one foot. Use the cloth to help pull your leg straight and up, then hold for 20 seconds. Lower your leg and repeat on the other side. You should feel this stretch in the back of your thigh. Try this stretch two to three times per leg.
- Calf Stretch
Hold onto a chair or wall for balance. Slightly bend one leg, and straighten the other leg out behind you, pressing the heel into the floor. Hold for 20 seconds, then switch legs. You should feel this stretch in the back of your calf. Try it two to three times per leg.
As you work to get stronger, you may find you experience less knee pain thanks to these exercises and stretches.