As a doctor of physical therapy, knee pain is one of the most common conditions that I treat. Luckily, there is a lot that the right stretches and strengthening exercises can do to help alleviate this pain. Today, I wanted to share with you 10 of my favorite knee stretches and exercises to decrease your knee pain and help you feel better.
In order to understand why your knee is hurting, it’s important to understand the structures that make up the knee joint. Your knee is made up of three bones – the femur, the tibia, and the patella. These bones are held together primarily by four ligaments (ACL, PCL, MCL, and LCL). There are also multiple tendons from muscles that cross the knee joint as well.
Why does my knee hurt?
There are many different potential causes for knee pain depending on which particular anatomical structure is affected. Common bone issues include osteoarthritis and stress fracture. Knee ligament pain can indicate strains and tears. Muscle and tendon issues include sprains and tendinopathies (tendinitis, tendinosis, etc). The most common conditions I encounter as a physical therapist include osteoarthritis pain, patellofemoral syndrome (pain under the outside of the kneecap), meniscus injuries (pain in the knee joint; usually isolated to one side), and ligament injuries.
It’s important to note that not all knee pain is the same and therefore recommended treatment and exercises will be different depending on which structures are affected. The stretches and exercises demonstrated here are highly generalized and should not be taken as a treatment plan for your specific condition. You are encouraged to consult with your doctor or physical therapist for treatment options specific to your individual needs.
Will exercising help decrease pain in my knees?
The right exercises performed in the right way can have a major influence on knee pain. Stretching structures that are tight while strengthening muscles that are weak has a profound effect on the biomechanics of the knee joint. Increasing range of motion, strength, and stability in the knee are critical steps in decreasing pain and promoting normal function.
Which muscles should I strengthen to decrease my knee pain?
The two major muscles that move the knee joint are the quadriceps group and the hamstring group. You also need to focus on the hip muscles (hip flexors, hip extensors, and hip abductors) as they play a critical role in knee alignment and stability. The exercises demonstrated in the following video will address strength and range of motion in all of these areas.
10 of the best knee pain stretches and exercises
Knee flexion stretches
Knee extension stretches
Quadriceps strengthening – straight leg
Quadriceps strengthening – with knee movement
Straight leg raises – hip flexors
Bridges and hamstring curls – Hip extensors and hamstrings
Lateral hip including IT band and hip abductor strengthening
Knee pain is a common issue that affects millions of people everyday. These exercises and stretches are designed to increase motion and strength in key areas that will help decrease pain and facilitate normal activity.