Working Out, Not Working Ouch: 5 Exercises For Those With Knee Pain
Work the Pain Away
There’s no doubt about it: getting exercise is essential for good health. It keeps your muscles toned, gets that heart pumping, along with numerous other benefits. If you suffer from knee pain, however, keeping up your fitness regimen can become challenging. Whether the result of ongoing conditions like arthritis, or due to injury, you run the risk of complicating problems if you’re not careful. That said, the overwhelming consensus within the medical field is that the right exercises will help with recovery and are actually beneficial to your knees.
Knees and Exercise
The thinking surrounding exercise and knee conditions has evolved, and earlier concerns about negative effects have largely been discounted. In fact, a review of research published in Current Pain and Headache Reports back in 2011 noted that “Based on contemporary literature, regular light to moderate activity has both preventative and therapeutic benefits for individuals with knee OA [osteoarthritis].” It’s no wonder, then, that certain exercises will frequently be recommended to accompany recovery and treatment for those with knee pain.
Pacing, not Racing: Knee Friendly Exercises
If you have knee problems, you can’t just jump into an intense workout routine. The key is to start slow and scale up. It’s important to listen to both your doctor and your body; follow recommendations and don’t push it if something doesn’t feel right.
Let’s take a look at five common knee exercises for those in pain you can do at home:
- Partial Squats: Start off standing about one foot in front of a chair, with your feet underneath your hips. While focusing on keeping your abs tight, lower yourself halfway to the chair, bending at the hips while ensuring your knees don’t move beyond your toes. Depending on your level of fitness, do 10 to 12 repetitions, three to four times a week.
- Side-Lying Leg Lifts: You can use ankle weights for this one, but you don’t have to when starting. Lie on a yoga mat on your left side, with your legs straightened, together, and your left arm supporting your head. Slowly lift the right leg to shoulder height and your lower leg at the same speed. With this exercise, too, 10 to 12 reps should do the trick.
- Calf-Raises: Using a chair or wall for support, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, with toes pointed forward. Slowly lift your heels up so that you are on your toes, and then slowly lower them. You should feel a nice burn in your calf muscles when done correctly. You may be able to pull off extra reps, but as with the others, 10 to 12 a day, three or four days a week is a good starting point.
- Hamstring Stretch: This is an exercise that can be done more often: up to five days a week. Lie on your back on a mat with your left leg flat on the floor. Use a towel, cord, or rope, to loop around your right foot and pull that leg as far towards your chest as is comfortable. Make sure to keep the knee slightly bent, otherwise you’ll put undue strain on the hamstring rather than work the leg muscle. Keeping your back straight on the ground, hold the position for 20 to 30 seconds, and then alternate to the other leg. This can be repeated three to four times per session.
- Step-Ups: You can use an aerobic step bench or even just a staircase for this exercise. Step up with one leg, followed by the other, tap your toes, and then lower. Make sure to alternate legs so you are exercising muscles evenly. Keep form in mind as you do this by ensuring your knee is directly over the ankle. Reps here vary, depending on your level of conditioning,as well as the height that you’re using to step up on. For more advanced versions of this exercise, do them with weights in hand. But be careful! If your legs aren’t used to it, they’ll be hurting you big time the next few days.
In addition to these exercises, it also helps to try other activities; studies show that only 20 minutes of walking at a moderate pace three times a week is beneficial (see reference #3).
The important thing is that you pace yourself; if you haven’t been working out much, or are recovering from injury, seek out advice from medical and fitness professionals before starting your regimen. Be conservative in the early going; only after you feel you’ve mastered a certain exercise should you up the repetitions or amount of weight.
Don’t Be A Pain in the Knee About Your Pain in the Knee!
Knee pain, like all health issues, can be seriously disruptive. It gets in the way of practically every aspect of life—taking away from family time, hampering work, affecting your daily habits—which is why you need to be proactive. Don’t be afraid to be open about what’s bothering you and seek out help when you need it. If you end up getting treatment, don’t be afraid to ask about exercises you can do and other ways you can aid the recovery process.
Don’t Forget to Cool Down
Remember: warm up, cool down, and stay hydrated. You certainly don’t want to re-injure yourself, and you certainly want to make sure your muscles are warm when beginning, that your movements are fluid, and that you pay particular attention to form, and finally a good cool down.
If you’re struggling with knee pain or other joint issues, a number of treatment options are available. The team at Onward Orthopedics employs the latest technology in minimally invasive techniques and will work with you to find solutions to your specific health problems. Talk to one of their dedicated Patient Care Coordinators by calling (800) 577-1693.
- Esser, S and A Bailey. ‘Effects of Exercise and Physical Activity on Knee Osteoarthritis’. Current pain and headache reports. 15, no. 6 (October 1, 2011): 423″30. Accessed December 1, 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21956792.
- Stanten, Michele. ‘The Best and Worst Exercises for Bad Knees’. July 31, 2015. Accessed December 1, 2016. http://www.prevention.com/fitness/exercises-knee-pain.
- “Walking: Your Steps to Health – Harvard Health,” Harvard Health Publications, May 20, 2015, accessed December 1, 2016, http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/Walking-Your-steps-to-health.