Throughout your life, your knees are placed under varying degrees of stress. Exercise, although good for your body and your health, put even more stress on your knee joints.
While the knee joints are made to bear weight, these stressors can eventually cause injury. You might start to feel a twinge in your knee when performing squats or deadlifts - a twinge that doesn’t go away. And instead, it gets worse.
Most automatically think they may need surgery to tackle their knee injury. However, this isn’t always the case. And it really comes down to what is causing your pain.
WHAT IS CAUSING YOUR KNEE PAIN?
Often, it is due to overuse or wear and tear. If you have recently added weight to your exercises or amped up your reps, it might just be a case of too much, too soon. In this case, you may have aggravated the ligaments or tendons around the knee.
The knee joint also gets worn down over time. When this happens, osteoarthritis may occur. The cartilage at the ends of the bones at the knee joint becomes worn down. In turn, it causes painful bone-on-bone contact.
While osteoarthritis isn’t exactly reversible, certain exercises can reduce your pain symptoms and improve the function of the knee - and the same goes for other injuries to the knee. Muscle imbalances and improper biomechanics may be the root cause of your knee pain. Thus, strengthening certain muscle groups and correcting your form may help you get back on your feet.
SO, WHAT SHOULD YOU OR SHOULDN’T YOU BE DOING TO YOUR KNEES?
Do take a break. Rest after the initial injury. Give your knee time to heal. Sometimes, this is all you need.
Don’t push through the pain. This will only further aggravate the problem and often increase your already existing pain. It’s not worth it (and it doesn’t make you a better person)!
Do use ice or heat for 15 minutes at a time. These 2 methods can help reduce inflammation and pain. Use whichever one feels best.
Don’t kneel or sit on your knees. Again, this can aggravate the issue - creating a longer recovery time and a lot more grief.
Do work on strengthening your quadriceps and hamstrings - without loading the knee joint (or bearing weight). This can help reduce your pain and get you back to your norm. We’ll explain how to do a few of these exercises below.
Don’t overdo your exercises. If pain occurs, stop. Be cautious. Knee pain can easily turn into a chronic and persistent issue - don’t let this happen to you.
Do perform gentle stretches for your hamstrings and quadriceps muscles, as long as they don’t cause pain.
Don’t wear improper footwear. So many injuries could be prevented by wearing the right shoes on your feet. Invest in a good pair of runners or gym shoes - something with support.
Do invest in a good knee support in order to prevent any further injuries. Wearing a compression sleeves can increase warmth and blood flow to the joint preventing any further injury and promoting recovery.
Don’t perform any exercises that cause pain or place stress on the knee - at least until your injury has fully healed. Avoid jumping, running, and squatting exercises for the time being. Eventually, you can give them a try again, but it’s important to ease back into it.
EXERCISES TO TACKLE YOUR KNEE PAIN
The quadriceps and hamstrings are the big muscles in the thigh. They are often the focus in knee pain rehabilitation programs. These muscles support and stabilize the knee joint, as well as help extend and flex the knee.
Below we explore how you can strengthen the leg muscles, as well as stretch them to counterbalance.
The quad is located on the front of the thigh. It is responsible for extending your knee. If your pain levels are quite high, begin by simply lying faceup on a bed. Press the back of your knee down into the bed. The quad should tighten. Hold here for 5-10 seconds and do 10-12 repetitions for 2-3 sets each day. If your pain levels allow, you can move onto the exercise outlined below.
- Sit tall in a chair, with your knees bent at 90 degrees. If your pain levels allow, you can strap an ankle weight or resistance band around your ankle.
- Slowly extend your leg straight.
- Slowly lower your foot back down to the ground.
- Perform this exercise for 10-12 reps and 2-3 sets every day. Gradually increase the resistance (as long as there is no pain!).
The hamstring muscles are the big muscles located on the back of the thigh. They are the reason you can flex your knee.
- Stand tall, with a chair or wall close by for support.
- Strap an ankle weight or resistance band around your ankle, if pain levels allow.
- Keeping your thighs parallel, bend your affected knee up and back toward your buttocks.
- Slowly lower your foot back down to the ground and repeat.
- Perform 10-12 repetitions for 2-3 sets per day.
- Stand tall, with a chair or wall close by for support.
- Keeping your thighs parallel, grab your foot with your same side hand and bring it back toward your buttocks.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds.
- Perform 2-3 times per day.
- Sit in a chair close to the edge (but make sure you aren’t about to tilt forward or fall off!).
- Extend your affected leg straight in front of you, planting your heel on the ground.
- Lean forward at the waist. You should feel a gentle stretch in the back of your thigh.
- If you don’t feel a stretch, try propping your foot up on a stool or chair in front of you and then, lean forward.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds and perform 2-3 times per day.
DON’T LET YOUR KNEE PAIN BECOME A CHRONIC PROBLEM!
Tackle your knee pain before it becomes a major issue. Your fitness goals will be there when you get back.
You only get 2 knees! Pinning your bets on a later-life knee replacement isn’t the way to go. Studies show that those that underwent surgery versus those that underwent non-surgical interventions had similar outcomes (however, this entirely depends on the type of injury or condition you have!). Make sure knee pain doesn’t become your norm. Get a proper diagnosis and take care of yourself first!
Check out our article on back pain as well!