As one of the largest and most complex joints in your body, the knees require many muscles to stabilize and support them. The knee is known as a “hinge” joint and contains a complex mix of bones, muscles, tendons, cartilage, and ligaments. Whether your knee pain is attributed to joint inflammation, injury, or disease, strengthening the muscles surrounding the knee will help relieve knee pain.
The knee is especially vulnerable to injury and overuse because of its location, construction, and biomechanics. Exercising the muscles that support the knee can prevent injuries and relieve the worst of your pain. These muscles include the quadriceps, hamstrings, hips, and calves.
As always, the best exercises are the ones that engage multiple muscles. These exercises, called compound exercises, include squats, deadlifts, and lunges paired with bicep curls. Unfortunately, compound exercises are often challenging if you have knee pain. The exercise routine we prescribe is a bit easier on the knees and works with each of the four knee-supporting muscles to provide knee pain relief.
Knee Pain Relief Exercise Routine
Together, these exercises will provide a well-rounded workout for the muscles that support your knee and thus provide relief from knee pain. Each exercise will have an easy version and a hard version. Knee pain is complicated and could be the result of any number of issues. Often a physical therapist is required to assist with treatment. Remember to consult a doctor before making changes to your exercise routine.
1. Sit to Stand
This first exercise works the quadriceps or quads, which run up the front of your leg. If your quadriceps are weak, you increase your risk of knee injuries, cartilage loss, and osteoarthritis.
The Sit-to-Stand exercise is as straightforward as its name implies. The instructions are below:
- To begin, find a chair, stool, or the edge of your bed, and stand with your back to it.
- Sit down on your chosen surface and stand back up.
- Repeat 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions
The mobility of your knee should dictate the height of the object you sit on. To make this exercise more advanced, use a lower surface. You can also do the exercise one leg at a time or hold weights.
Don't be intimidated by the second exercise. Deadlifts aren't just for bodybuilders, and they don't have to be super difficult. The hamstrings run opposite the quads on the back of your legs, and deadlifts strengthen them. Strong hamstrings are essential to prevent knee ligaments such as the ACL from tearing. Your hamstrings provide stability when engaged in connection with the quads and prevent the knee from over twisting.
Deadlifts can be done with or without weights. The instructions are below:
- Start in a standing position with weights in hand (if using)
- Bend over as if you were putting the weights on the floor. Remember to keep a slight bend in the knee with your back straight.
- Using the hamstrings and glutes, rise back to standing.
- Repeat 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions
Deadlifts can increase in difficulty depending on the weights you use. While this exercise seems simple, you will feel it the next day if you have weak hamstrings. Do the exercise on one leg at a time for a challenge.
3. Glute Bridge
Your hip and glute muscles are essential stabilizers for your entire legs, and the glute bridge targets all of them. Your glutes help control the movement of the knee from front to back and side to side. If the glutes aren't strong enough, knee movement can be erratic and more likely to result in an injury.
The hips contain a series of balancing muscles that hold the ball and socket joint at the top of your leg together. The hips and glutes together are necessary stabilizers for knee pain relief.
Glute bridges are easier for many people because they are done from the ground. The instructions are below:
- Begin by lying on your back.
- Bend your knees so that your heels are as close as possible to your glutes.
- Engage the glutes to lift the lower half of your body.
- Lower back down to the floor.
- Repeat 3 sets of 15-20
For an advanced version of the glute bridge, try placing a weight or large textbook on your hip crease. You could also try walking the feet further from the body and then back in while the lower body is lifted. This version works more of the stabilizing muscles in the hips and prolongs the exercise for your glutes.
Joints are the first thing to go if we spend our days sitting around on the couch without walking or exercising. Exercise encourages the movement of synovial fluid through the joints, helps with circulation, and builds muscles. Therefore, the prevention of knee pain relies heavily on movement!
If bending and straightening your knee isn’t an option, the best type of exercise would be low-impact aerobic activities like swimming or biking. In the case of your joints, any movement is better than no movement at all. If you have an existing injury, talk to a doctor about what options might be available for you.
Whether the pain is a result of age, injury, or repetitive use, knee pain relief is something we all look for at one point or another. While there may not be much you can do to keep your body from aging, you can prevent knee pain from injury or repetitive use by keeping the surrounding muscles healthy.
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February 2021. This article is independently written by Fusion 360. All opinions given are the opinion of Fusion 360