Knee pain is a common condition at any age. It can strike as early as adolescence or earlier, and derail a promising (or at least fun!) athletic career. It can result from chronic exercise and, for example, be a common running injury. Knee problems can also be anatomical or hereditary, or knee pain can gradually become a problem with age.
Knee pain also affects athletes more frequently because of the many stresses they put on their bodies day in and day out. There are common conditions such as iliotibial band syndrome, tendinitis that we often hear about, but there are many more issues that can surround this complex joint.
- 1 Reasons for knee pain
- 2 How does a knee work?
- 3 How to Treat Knee Pain
- 4 Three Types of Therapeutic Exercises to Reduce Knee Pain
- 5 Muscle strengthening isometric exercise to reduce knee pain
- 6 Starting workout
- 7 Advanced training to reduce knee pain
Reasons for knee pain
There are many common reasons for knee pain, but a 2015 study published in the journal Best Practice & Research Clinical Rheumatology indicates that most are related to work or previous injuries.
The study suggests that while the causes of knee osteoarthritis are multiple, two of them have attracted particular attention in recent years: work-related knee osteoarthritis and osteoarthritis following a previous knee injury. Studies also indicate that knee osteoarthritis is likely to become the eighth leading cause of disability in men and fourth in women, according to the World Health Organization’s Global Burden of Disease report.
Three major physical impairments such as knee pain, stiffness and decreased quadriceps strength are strongly associated with knee osteoarthritis and are believed to contribute to physical disability and disease progression.
In general, knee pain is caused by two things: arthritis or a sports-related injury.
There are several forms of arthritis that affect the knees: osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, reactive arthritis, Lyme disease, lupus, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis and infectious arthritis.
The most common knee injuries are meniscal injuries, anterior cruciate ligament and posterior cruciate ligament injuries, tendinitis, bursitis, foreign bodies, patella luxation, iliotibial band syndrome and syndrome of Plica.
How does a knee work?
The knee is made up of three bones: the femur, which is the bone in the upper part of the leg, or the thigh bone, the tibia, which is the bone at the front of the lower part of the leg and the patella, which is the thick, triangular bone above the other bones at the front of the knee, also called the patella. Cartilage covers the ends of bones so they can move easily against each other when in use and can absorb shock.
Two groups of muscles support the knees. The first is the hamstrings, which are the muscles located at the back of the thigh. They go from the hip to a point just below the knee and work to bend the knee. The others are the quadriceps, which are the four muscles located at the front of the thigh, from the hip to the knee, that straighten the knee from a bent position.
Now that you have a clearer idea of how it all works, it should make sense that strong muscles and bones to support the knees can help or even eliminate pain altogether.
How to Treat Knee Pain
Exercise-based therapy and knee strengthening exercises as the mainstay of treatment for osteoarthritis of the knee and problems related to knee pain and weight loss should be encouraged for all patients with any knee pain.
Now that we know that exercise is one of the best things you can do to help your knees, let’s see what specific knee strengthening exercises you can do. First of all, exercise is so important because it is essential to maintain a certain range of motion, and to do this, the muscles that support the knees must be strong and healthy!
Research shows that a small increase in quadriceps strength can help reduce the risk of knee osteoarthritis and its progression, as well as reduce pain. Exercise can also be effective for people with arthritis because of the support it provides to the joint area.
Three Types of Therapeutic Exercises to Reduce Knee Pain
It is important to choose the right exercises and do them correctly. There are three basic types of therapeutic exercises that can help strengthen the knee area: isotonic, isokinetic, and isometric exercises. Of these three types of exercises, isometric exercise is arguably the most appropriate and easiest for patients to understand. It can be done easily and safely at home or while traveling as it requires no equipment or minimal equipment. Also, isometric exercises cause the least amount of inflammation and pressure. Isometric exercises are simple to perform and quickly improve strength.
There are other more advanced dynamic exercises for knee pain, such as shallow to deep squats, step-ups, weightlifting, and leg lifts. You can start with easier versions of each of these exercises and progress to more advanced options as you gain strength and the pain lessens.
Below are two exercises that can help reduce knee pain by strengthening the muscles that support the knees.
Muscle strengthening isometric exercise to reduce knee pain
I suggest you do these exercises on both legs, even if you only have pain in one leg. This will allow for equal reinforcement and may even help support the knee better. Also, if you feel any pain, stop doing the knee strengthening exercises and consult your doctor, physical therapist, or trainer to make sure you are doing the exercises correctly. Take it easy. Over time, you will get stronger!
Quadriceps stretching exercises
Lie on your back. Place a rolled up towel or small foam roller under the knee. Activate the thigh muscles to straighten the knee and hold the contraction for 5 seconds. Release. Repeat 10 times on each side. This will strengthen the quadriceps.
Straight leg lift
Lie on your back. Extend both legs on the floor. Raise the right leg up to about 15 cm from the floor and hold the contraction for 10 seconds. Be sure to keep your abs tight. It can be helpful to place your hands under you in the lower back area for support, as you want to avoid arching your back. Be sure to engage your quadriceps! This will strengthen your quadriceps and core. Repeat 5 times on each side.
Lie on your back on the floor. Bend your knees, keeping your feet on the floor. Place a small pillow, light ball or foam roller between the knees. Squeeze your legs towards the object you are holding and hold this position for 5-10 seconds. Release and repeat 10-20 times. This exercise strengthens the muscles of the inner thighs.
Lie on your back on the floor. Bend your knees, keeping your feet on the floor. The heels should be close to the buttocks. Pushing off with the heels, raise the hips toward the ceiling and hold this position for 5-10 seconds. Release and repeat 10-20 times. This will strengthen the hamstring muscles that support your knees.
Advanced training to reduce knee pain
Stand upright, feet hip-width apart, pelvis slightly tucked in. Put all your weight in the heels and squat as if you were going to sit on a chair, buttocks well back. Keep your upper body as straight as possible. Do 10 to 20 reps. For a more advanced version, drop lower, but don’t drop below the thighs parallel to the floor.
One leg squat
This move is difficult, but with time, you can accomplish it! Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart. We’ll start by putting the weight on the right leg. Be sure to concentrate the weight on your heel. To maintain balance, start by touching the ground with your left toe and focus on something stationary in front of you. When you’re ready, begin to sit on your right leg while lifting your left foot and extending your left leg out in front of you. Go as low as you can while pushing your butt back, as if you were sitting in a chair. Return to the starting point. Do 10 on each side.
Find something you can safely climb on, such as the first or second step of a staircase or a weight bench. Make sure the object you are stepping on is sturdy. Start standing with your feet hip-width apart. With your right foot, step onto the bench or step and follow with your left foot. Step back down with the right foot and alternate feet so that the next one starts with the left foot and so on. Do 20 reps.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Make sure you have plenty of space behind you. Take a step back with your right foot and flex down, making sure your knee doesn’t go past your ankle. Push off with your heel to return to the starting position. Repeat the exercise on the other side. Be sure to keep your upper body straight by maintaining good posture. Do 10 on each leg.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Make sure you have enough space in front of you. Step forward with your right foot and lunge downward. Again, make sure your knee is no higher than your ankle and your weight is on your heel to maximize the benefits to the working muscles. Then push off with your heel to return to the starting position. Repeat the exercise on the other side. Be sure to keep your upper body straight. Maintain good posture! Do 10 on each leg.