7 Exercises to Reduce Knee Pain

By Savanna Stone
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I started having knee pain when I was in high school; no one tells you that volleyball will ruin your knees, probably because you should understand that from common sense. Diving for the ball and doing a weird half squat all day caused my knees to be extra tight. Then, I spent a few years in Thailand where I rode my bike everywhere and my knees got worse. I couldn’t sleep at night. To this day, every time I do a tiny bit of exercise, my knee pain returns. However, I discovered that doing these knee exercises and some stretches has helped my knee pain improve dramatically! 


What causes knee pain?


Knee pain as a lot of culprits: arthritis, gout, infections, injury, a ruptured ligament or torn cartilage. If you have minor knee pain, small stretching and exercising can help reduce your knee pain dramatically. The knee pain you experience might include some of the following symptoms: swelling and stiffness, weakness, popping or crunching sounds, or difficulty straightening your knee. When these symptoms accompany knee pain, go see your doctor: if you can’t stand on your knees and feel balanced, if your knees are swollen or appear abnormal, you were just injured, or you have a fever.


The best exercises for knee pain relief are the ones that stretch the muscles around your knees, such as the calf muscles, quad muscles, hamstrings, and your IT band. Remember to consult your doctor before starting any new exercise regimens. Don’t push yourself too far for these exercises. You should never proceed if you experience a lot of pain. Only do as much as feels comfortable for you.


A short explanation of the muscles around your knees:

Hamstrings: The hamstrings are located in the back of your thighs.

Quadriceps: The quadriceps are located in the front of your thighs.

Calf muscles: Your calf muscles are located on the back of your lower legs.

IT band: The IT band runs along the outside of your thighs from the hip to the knee. 



Hamstring strengthening exercise

  1. Lie on your stomach, resting on your elbows with your left leg bent. 
  2. Straighten and bend your left leg 10 times. 
  3. Do 3 repetitions. You can also do this exercise standing.

Strengthening your hamstrings can help protect your knees from extra pain.


Half squat



  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. 
  2. Keeping your knees at or behind your toes, squat down approximately 10 inches, or squat down halfway. Place your hands out in front of you for balance. Hold the squat for 3 to 4 seconds then stand up, pushing through your heels and pushing your hips forward at the top. 
  3. Repeat 3 sets of 10 repetitions. 

These squats strengthen your hamstrings and quadriceps, which will help reduce your knee pain.


Calf raises


  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
  2. With your hands on your hips for balance, lift your heels up so you’re standing on the balls of your feet. Rest back down.
  3. Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions.

This exercise will strengthen your calves, not the baby animal but that fleshy muscle in the back of your leg. 


Leg lifts

  1. Sit in a chair with your shoulders over your hips and your knees over your ankles.
  2. With your hands resting on your thighs, lift one foot up so that your leg is parallel to the floor. Release back down.
  3. Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions on both sides.

These leg lifts help to gently strengthen your quadriceps and hamstrings. When it comes to your knees, you don’t want to do too much at once. But when this becomes too easy, you can add a pound ankle weight (or more) to do this exercise. 


Leg raises


  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your hands at your sides.
  2. Straighten your left leg and lift it up so that it is in line with your right thigh. Rest back down.
  3. Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions on both sides.

These leg raises also help to gently strengthen your quadriceps and hamstrings. When this exercise becomes too easy, you can add a pound ankle weight to do this exercise as well. 


Side leg raises

  1. Lie on your right side with your legs on top of each other. Rest your right elbow on the floor and rest your head in your hand. Place your left hand on the floor in front of you for support.
  2. Lift your left leg up in the air as high as you can. Rest back down.
  3. Repeat 3 sets of 10 repetitions. Do this on both sides.

These leg raises also help to gently strengthen your quadriceps, hamstrings, and IT band. When this exercise becomes too easy, you can add a pound ankle weight to do this exercise as well. 


Face down leg raises


  1. Lie on your stomach with your hands on the ground like you’re about to do a push-up.
  2. Lift your left leg up as high as you can, while keeping it straight. Rest back down.
  3. Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions on both sides.

These face down leg raises will help to strengthen your hamstrings. You could try adding an ankle weight for this exercise as well when this becomes too easy.




References

Ask Doctor Jo. (2017, May 15). Knee pain relief exercises & stretches. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqkndmrDoCw

Jessica Valant Pilates. (2015, March 6). Physical therapy for knee pain. Retrieved from  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5b0gS7wI1k

Lindberg, S. (2019, December 13). 10 exercises to help relieve knee pain. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/exercises-for-knee-pain#stretching-exercises

Mayo Clinic. (2020). Knee pain. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/knee-pain/symptoms-causes/syc-20350849#:~:text=Knee%20pain%20may%20be%20the,also%20can%20cause%20knee%20pain.