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Does Exercise Really Help Relieve Knee Pain?



exercise and knee painKnee pain is the second most common joint problem seen in physical therapy.  The famed "low back pain" wins the First Place Award.  Documentation shows one-third of all sport-related injuries involve the knee joint.  Why does this seemingly innocent structure get so much attention?  Perhaps because it is the largest joint in the body and one of the most susceptible to injury when it comes to movement.  Knee pain...let's see what the benefits of exercise can do?

The human knee is a complex structure where the end of the thigh bone (femur) meets the top of the shin bone (tibia) to form a hinge joint which also rotates to allow us to turn and pivot.  The ability to pivot and bend or straighten at the same time allows us to be more agile...more fleet of foot.  It also makes the knee more susceptible to injury.  This usually occurs when you quickly change direction while your foot is planted. Large muscles (quadriceps and hamstrings) bend and straighten the knee, but protection from stress is dependent on the 12 ligaments, 13 bursae, 2 menisci, and  smooth cartilage covering the joint surfaces.Knee exercise Knees Software  Another unique component of the knee is the patella (kneecap).  It glides over the front of the knee to provide joint stability when the knee is straightened....standing, taking a step forward, climbing stairs.  When a baby is born, the kneecap consists only of cartilage.  As a young child grows, the cartilage changes into bone. For girls, this transformation to bone is completed by the age 3 and age 5 for a boy.

Knee pain has a variety of causes, with overuse being the most common.  Overuse leads to muscle strength imbalance, poor body mechanics, cartilage wear and tear, swelling, joint stiffness, and a whole lot of discomfort.  Anti-inflammatory medications help relieve the symptoms.  This is a temporary solution.  To prevent recurring pain, the primary cause must be addressed.  Exercise is often a solution to muscle imbalance and poor body mechanics.  Not everyone with knee pain needs physical therapy, but early intervention saves time and money......and less pain.

To relieve knee pain and soreness, try these exercise ideas:

  • Walk or do indoor cycling for 3 - 5 minutes followed by stretching your hamstrings (back of thighs), quadriceps (front of thigh), and calf muscles  calf stretch with towel       
  •  Straight Leg Raises (lie on bed, one knee bent.  Slowly lift straight leg to level of bent knee.  Hold.  Slowly lower leg back to bed.  Repeat 10 times. Switch legs and repeat.)
  • Quad Sets (sit with legs straight, slowly tighten one thigh muscle.  Hold.  Repeat 10 times each leg.)
  • Seated Hip Marching (sitting in chair, lift one leg with knee bent 10 times.  Repeat on other leg)
  • Inner Thigh Squeeze (sitting or lying, squeeze pillow between knees. Hold.  Repeat 10 - 12 times)
  • Heel Raises (stand facing chair, keep self standing erect.  Rise up on balls of feet.  Hold.  Repeat 10 times)
  • Side Leg Raise (stand facing chair for support.  Slowly lift one leg out to side.  Hold.  Slowly return to start position.  Repeat 10 times.  Switch legs and repeat)
  • Sit to Stand (place 1 or 2 pillows on chair.  Sit on pillows.  Use leg muscles to bring self to full standing position.  Slowly lower self back to pillow.  Try with arms at your sides or arms crossed)
  • Walking on level surfaces with arms swinging freely (gradually increase walking time to 30 minutes)  Its the time you exercise, not the distance which makes the difference.  Add hills and slopes as your endurance and strength improve.
  • Try taping knee before activity

Talk to your physician if pain continues.  It's also beneficial to take a look at

  • Your body mechanics during activity?  Are you locking your knees?
  • Type of shoes your are wearing?
  • Wear and tear on shoes used during activity?  (500 miles is maximum use for any shoe.  500+ miles....time to replace your shoes)
  • Do you take time during activity or immediately following to rest your knee?
  • Do you use ice and elevate your leg when you have knee pain?

Be proactive when it comes to your joints.  Who wants a total knee replacement, when you've got the original?

For more detailed information, check out the  exercise-zone



Diana welcomes your comments


Points well taken , a lot of good advice.
Posted @ Wednesday, July 18, 2012 7:28 PM by Lawrence Dvorak
I don't about others but knee pain is very common among me. I like to play a lot and during playing time I often injured my knee. Though it's very common for me and so I've learned how to deal with it nicely and I can recover faster. Exercising indeed fastest and effective way to treat knee pain faster. Thanks.
Posted @ Sunday, June 02, 2013 8:23 AM by Martha
I have mild, chronic knee pain that gets worse with the weather and hiking downhill. I will give these exercises a try.
Posted @ Monday, July 08, 2013 9:15 PM by bill Echert
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Diana Echert

Jumping for PT DocTools

Diana is a licensed physical therapist whose experience spans inpatient and outpatient work in rehab, geriatrics, orthopedics and sports medicine. An avid hker and tennis player, she you must practice what you preach.  Stay active and informed any way you can

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