Knee pain is usually the result of stiffness brought on by inactivity or immobilization of the knee joint. Many who suffer from osteoarthritis complain of joint stiffness and pain. Knee pain is especially felt when bending over or squatting. So what can one do to alleviate stiffness and the accompanying pain that results? Losing body weight will certainly help to reduce the load placed on the knee joints. Each pound of body weight lost subtracts four pounds of pressure on the knee joints. Performing joint movements will certainly help lessen joint stiffness. Exercise will help to lose body weight and increase joint mobility. As a result, exercise can also bring relief from pain. The key is to perform exercise on a consistent basis (i.e., at least 3 times per week). Since exercise initially tends to cause knee pain, most people would rather avoid it. But this is a mistake! Not being active will only exacerbate stiffness, pain and immobility.
So what exercises should you do to bring about relief from knee pain? Any low-impact aerobic exercise such as swimming, biking, walking, and water aerobics are ideal. Aim for 30 minutes of low-impact aerobic exercise on most days of the week. Anaerobic exercises are also highly recommended several days per week to maintain if not increase strength of the muscles surrounding your knees. Bodyweight exercises such as supine, side-lying and prone single straight-leg knee raises are good warm-up exercises for each knee. Closed-chain isometric exercises can be good for aching knees. Try holding a squat against a wall for at least 10 seconds at a time and perform this exercise several times. Slowly perform calf raises off of a ledge (e.g., stair) for up to 15 reps for several sets using both or either leg at a time. Step-ups (e.g., stairs) is a superb exercise for strengthening the muscles above each knee. Perform resistance training exercises like leg extensions and leg curls to strengthen the quads and hamstrings, respectively. Be sure to perform up to 15 reps of leg presses to strengthen your quads.
Stretching every day is essential to reduce joint and muscle stiffness. Perform quad, hamstring and calf stretches daily. Be sure to hold each stretch up to 30 seconds and repeat two to four times. Refer to the exercise portion of this blog for how to perform certain stretches. Tai Chi and yoga are other options for stretching and strengthening the muscles surrounding your knees. Most importantly, listen to your body and know your limits! Never push through bad pain! Apply an ice pack to an aching joint for up to 15 minutes to reduce inflammation. Taking a nice hot bath may also relieve sore joints.
Brian Danley, CFT
"Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going."
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I'm a personal trainer who loves to help others fulfill their health and fitness goals. I consider myself a bodybuilder in that I live the lifestyle of eating healthy food, working out regularly, and sculpting my body.