5 Exercises That Help Relieve Chronic Knee Pain
For most of us, it’s inevitable – our bodies will begin to function differently as we get older. Let’s not get lost in these unwelcome changes, but instead, learn how to treat our bodies with a greater respect for certain targeted areas.
Exploring the world can be harsh on our knees, especially if you already have a pre-existing knee problem. According to the American Osteopathic Association, “Knee pain is the number two cause of chronic pain; more than one-third of Americans report being affected by knee pain. Sometimes knee pain may be the result of too much weight on the knee joint, other times it may be due to injury or improper technique during activity.”
We turned to expert Jacon Chun, MPT, SCS, ATC, CSCS, clinical specialist at Alter G Inc., who says, “There are a number of reasons why people may have pain in their knees. For bad knees, mobility problems usually are a result of tight quadriceps, hamstrings, IT Band, or hips, so I screen those areas first. If there is a restriction, I’ll prescribe stretches for that specific area. For the mechanical issues, we look for proper muscle recruitment and alignment in functional movements like squats, stepping up/down a step, or jumping/running. If there are problems with a movement, then we need to retrain the patient to move properly to prevent aggravating the knees.”
We asked Chun about knee rehabilitation, and here’s what he had to say.
Flexibility is key for minimizing compression forces at the knee joint, Chun says.
Quadriceps stretches: These are important for decreasing pressure at the knee joint. The goal is to be able to stand, bend your knee back, and touch your heel to the hip on the same side.
Hamstring and calf stretches: These are important because tight musculature here can prevent the knee from fully straightening out. Without full knee extension, knee join forces again can be higher, leading to pain and osteoarthritis.
This is the strengthening phase to ensure proper mechanics are used in everyday and recreational activities. Take a top down approach, starting at the hips and moving down the chain to the ankle/foot, explains Chun. The aim is to perform all of these exercises at full body weight, but if patients have pain, the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill is a great way to start with less difficulty.
Those with really weak hips can start with exercises lying on the side or back. According to Chun, moving the hips out away from the body strengthens the hip abductors, which are key in controlling knee position/alignment. Progression can then move to standing exercises that strengthen the hip like banded walking/shuffling or dynamic balance exercises.
The muscles that support the arch of the foot are also important at maintaining knee alignment. These are strengthened in sitting with rubber bands or in standing with dynamic balance exercises, explains Chun.
Once the hip and ankle imbalances are improved, knee strengthening can then occur with proper form. Squats, reverse lunges, and step-ups/downs can all be performed with proper knee mechanics being the goal.
Once the patient has learned the proper mechanics, they can be transferred to daily activities, like walking or running. As Chun always tells people, “It’s not practice makes perfect, it’s perfect practice makes perfect.”