It is important to pick your exercises carefully if you are either recovering from a knee injury or experiencing knee pain of any kind. Physical activity can put unnecessary strain on the joint and cause more harm than good in the long run.
In the article below we will be investigating;
- The best exercises to undertake while experiencing knee pain
- What to avoid if you have knee pain
- Is walking or cycling good for knee pain?
- How you can combat knee pain
If you have existing knee pain and you are worried about further damage to your joints then you should always consult your doctor or physical therapist before you begin.
It is one of the best things that you can do to strengthen your knees and avoid any more damage to the muscles and joints. It will help to support your knees and keep them flexible.
You can begin slowly and build your exercise regime over time. Speak with your physical therapist about which specific strengthening exercises for knee joints and the muscles that surround them will help you.
Top Exercises for Knee Pain
1. Straight Leg Raises
There are some simple knee strengthening exercises that you can perform to help with the muscles around the knee. This in turn will provide additional support for the joint and prevent injury. Prevention is always preferable to recovery.
The straight leg raises work your quadriceps or the muscles in front of the thighs. It puts a limited strain on the knee.
To begin, lay on your back on the floor or any flat surface. Bend one knee and place this foot flat on the floor. Keep the other leg straight and raise it to the height of the bended knee.
From here repeat 10-15 times on each knee for 3 sets.
2. Hamstring Curls
The hamstrings are the muscles that lay along the back of your thigh. Again they assist to support the knee joint and avoid injury.
Lie flat on your stomach and slowly bring your heels up towards your buttock, as close as you can. Hold this position and repeat for three sets of 15 reps.
If you prefer you can complete this exercise while standing. Hold onto a stable chair and lift one leg at a time.
From here if you require additional intensity, you can add ankle weights, slowly increasing the weight from 1 to 3 to 5 pounds as you strengthen your leg.
3. Prone Straight Leg Raises
For prone straight leg raises, lay on your stomach with your legs straight. Tighten the muscles in your buttocks and the hamstring in your right leg, lift toward the ceiling.
Hold this position for 3-5 seconds and slowly lower your right leg and repeat. Complete 10 to 15 lifts and then switch sides. You may wish to add ankle weights to increase intensity down the track.
There should be no back pain in this exercise. If you find you are experiencing back pain then limit how high you lift your leg. If the pain persists you may need to speak with your doctor.
4. Wall Squats
For a more advanced exercise to strengthen knee joints and surrounding muscles, you may want to consider incorporating wall squats into your regime.
Keep both feet on the floor and stand with your back against the wall. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart.
Slowly lower your body by bending your knees, keeping your back and pelvis against the wall. Hold this squat for 10 seconds before returning to the start position.
Make sure not to bend too deeply, if you feel any pressure or discomfort in your knees change your position. Repeat this movement up to 10 times per set and try to hold the squat position for a few seconds longer each time.
5. Calf Raises
During calf raises you are of course exercising your calf muscles as per the name.
You will start by facing the back of a sturdy chair or another form of support. It can also be performed on the stairs, holding onto the banister with your heels hanging off the edge of the step.
Slowly raise your heels as high as possible and then lower them. Complete three sets of 10-15 reps. If you need to increase the intensity lift one foot slightly off the floor and place all your weight on the other foot.
With one foot on a step bench, this can also be a platform, or the lowest step on a staircase. Keep your pelvis level and bend your knee, slwoly lowering the opposite foot to the floor.
Lightly touch the toe to the floor and then raise it back up. Repeat 10-15 times and then switch legs. Use a higher step to increase the inetnsity of this exercise. Or you can touch the heel instead of your toe.
7. Side Leg Raises
Lay on your side with your legs stacked on top of each other. Bend the bottom leg for support. Straighten your top leg and raise it to 45 degrees.
Hold this position for 5 seconds and then slowly lower and relax. Repeat this 10-15 times and then switch sides. If you want to try something different, point the toe of your upper leg slightly toward the floor as you bring it up.
8. Leg Presses
Sit on the leg press machine with your back against the support and your feet on the footplate, flat against it. Adjust the seat so that it is comfortable for you.
Push the plate away from you slowly until your legs are almost fully extended, with a slight bend. Bend your knees back to the starting position. Complete three sets of 10-15 reps.
9. Leg Extensions
For leg extensions, sit on a tall chair with your feet flat on the floor. Look straight ahead and contract your thigh muscles.
Extend one leg as high as possible while keeping your buttocks on the chair. Hold for 5 seconds and then lower to the starting position. Complete 2 or 3 sets with 10 reps on each leg.
10. Side Leg Raises
Lay on your side with your legs one on top of the other. Place your head on your hand and your other hand on the floor in front of you.
Raise your top leg as high as you can. It should still be comfortable but you should feel it on the side of your hips.
Pause at the top of the stretch and then lower your leg back down. Do 2-3 sets of 10 reps on each leg.
11. Knee Bends
Stand a foot from the wall with your knees hip-width apart. Your feet should be positioned slightly outwards.
Slide your back down the wall by slowly bending at the knees. Do not let your knees bend out past your toes.
Your knees should point in the same direction as your toes. As you come up to the starting position, focus on tensing your muscles above your knee and buttocks.
Frequently asked questions
What is the best exercise for bad knees?
There is no one exercise that will help your knee joint pain. The best way, according to the majority of physical therapists is to get moving in any way you can.
This, of course, should be limited if you are already experiencing an injury or pain.
Physical activity, like walking, swimming, cycling, water aerobics, and yoga all assist to improve the symptoms of pain around the knee in general and arthritic knee pain.
Is walking good for knee pain?
As long as you do not overdo it, walking is a good exercise to assist with knee pain. It acts to strengthen the knee joint without putting too much strain on the muscles and ligaments.
If you are recovering from an injury, or surgery on your knees, then you should begin slowly.
Start with just walking around the house short distances. Extend to taking a short walk outside and perhaps even around the block.
As your knee pain starts to ease you can take longer and longer walks each time.
Is cycling good for knee pain?
Cycling is a sport that is on the fence when it comes to knee injuries. You should consult with your physical therapist before partaking in cycling.
Cycling is a more high impact sport than many others. Where water-based sports, such as swimming and water aerobics, provide support for your joint, cycling puts more strain on the knee.
You should always warm-up before starting your daily exercise regime.
This is where cycling can come into play in the early stages of recovery from a knee injury.
The stationary bike can be your best friend. Ride the stationary bike for 5 minutes to warm-up for your knee pain exercise.
Other ways in which you can warm-up include taking a brisk 2-minute walk while pumping your arms or 15-20 wall push-ups followed by an equal number of calf raises.
This will help you to get more out of your workout and prepare you by stretching, lowering your risk of knee injury significantly.
How can I get rid of knee pain?
The type of treatment for your knee pain entirely depends on the root cause of the pain. Your doctor will determine what has caused your knee pain and develop a treatment schedule to assist you.
There are some pain medications that could be prescribed by your doctor. This will relieve pain and swelling and may even treat underlying conditions like gout and rheumatoid arthritis.
Exercises, like the above, will help to strengthen the muscles around the joint. This will give your knee joint added support and will not only help to prevent future damage and injury, but will also assist with healing and recovery.
You may wish to consult with a physical therapist for some specific exercises to help with your knee pain and develop a plan for your recovery.
There are some injections that your doctor can administer directly to the joint to help with pain and inflamation.
These include corticosteroids which will reduce the symptoms of arthritis. This will work for a few months before a next injections is needed.
Hyaluronic acid lubricates the joint and can be injected into the knee to improve mobility and ease pain. The results may last up to six months.
Platelet-rich plasma or PRP contains a variety of growth factors to reduce inflammation and promote healing. If your knee pain is caused by tendon tears, sprians or injury then this may work for you.
Surgery is generally the last resort for knee pain. There are pros and cons to knee surgery and the recovery time may be much longer when invasive surgery is involved.
Arthroscopic surgery examines the joint damage using a fibre optic camera and enters through a small incision. It may also remove loose bodies in the joint and repair cartilage. Long, narrow tools are used to complete the procedure.
Partial knee replacement surgery allows the surgeon to replace the most damaged portion of the knee with metal or plastic parts. It can be performed through small incisions and can heal quicker than more invasive surgery, such as a full knee replacement.