Exercising With Knee Pain
Knee pain shouldn’t stop you from getting enough exercise. Here’s how to have a healthy, active lifestyle.
If you have knee pain, exercising may be the last thing on your mind. And you’re not alone in fact, only 13 percent of men and 8 percent of women with knee osteoarthritis get the minimum recommended amount of weekly exercise, experts say. But exercising could be the best thing you can do for your knees.
Exercise is good therapy for knee pain, but it needs to be the right kind of exercise, says Steven Stuchin, MD, director of orthopedic surgery at NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases in New York City. Pounding your knees with high-impact exercise or overdoing it during workouts could make your knee pain worse. But its easy to avoid problems by following these dos and donts for exercising with knee pain.
Do exercise in the water. If youre worried that exercising will be too hard on your knees, try exercising in water first. Waters buoyancy will take the load off your knees, allowing you to exercise with less pain and stress on your joints, says Dr. Stuchin.
Don’t participate in high-impact activities. Basketball, tennis, racquetball, squash, soccer, and football are hard on the knees because they involve sudden starts, stops, and turns, as well as jumping . Avoid any type of exercise that involves jumping if you have knee pain, recommends Stuchin.
How To Save Your Knees Without Giving Up Your Workout
Theres no magic bullet to knee health, but staying active and building muscles around the joint are crucial.
In the annals of unsolicited advice, few nuggets have been dispensed as widely and with less supporting evidence than this: If you keep doing all that running, youre going to ruin your knees.
The latest salvo in the debate over knees and running a systematic review of 43 previous MRI studies that finds no evidence that running causes either short-term or long-term damage to knee cartilage is unlikely to convince the opinionated ex-football star at your Thanksgiving table who swears his bum knee was caused by wind sprints. But given that nearly half of Americans are expected to develop painful knee osteoarthritis at some point during their lives, the findings do raise a nagging question: If abstaining from running wont magically protect your knees, what will?
Exercises To Instantly Improve Knee Pain
Be honest with yourself, have you really tapped into and addressed all the things that could be the reason for your knee discomfort and exhausted every last conservative option before jumping into a reactionary model of medicine? Probably not. So thats why Ive put together my 5 most effective approaches to eradicating chronic knee pain from your training, including the best exercises in each category for you to start using right away. Its time to identify the problems, strengthen the weak links and get back to being pain-free once again.
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Knee Pain After Exercise: Treatment And Prevention
There are many reasons why you suffer from knee pain, but not all of them are serious. You may have a touch of bursitis or tendinitis or you may have some major issues going on such as cartilage damage or ligament tears. Knee pain can affect the way you walk and how you stand up after being seated. Many times you will find your knees locking up if you have been seated for a while. Whenever you begin a new exercise program you may experience some joint pain in the beginning but if it continues longer than 2 weeks you may want to contact your physician.
Knee Lifts With Punches
This move does require some coordination, so give yourself a little extra time to get the move down.
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Make Intelligent Movement Substitutions
These two movement pyramids show progressions of the most common knee-aggravating exercises. The bottom movement is the most approachable and the top is the most technical or difficult.
Your objective is to determine the most advanced variation you can perform without pain. Then, use that variation in your training.
If you’re following a program that has a squat or lunge variation that you know will cause you pain, here’s what to do: Use these two movement pyramids to find a version of the movement that feels strong, safe, and doesn’t cause pain.
This is crucial: Don’t feel like you have to aim for the top of the pyramid! Focus on doing what you can well and getting stronger at it. That could mean performing split squat variations instead of walking lunges. The benefits are largely the same, and for many, the risk is far less.
For more in-depth training guidance on how to use these pyramids, and to see demonstrations of each movement, check out Unstoppable in BodyFit.
How To Stay Active With An Injured Knee
May 23, 2019
Recovering from a knee injury can sometimes be a slowprocess. It can especially put a damper on your workout routine if your injuryresulted from a routine workout or team sport, and youre eager to get activeagain. Its important to be careful and take it easy during your recoveryperiod, and there are even a few ways for you to continue exercising.
Maintaining your base fitness level is possible byexercising parts of your body that dont heavily rely on your leg strength.Push-ups, pull-ups, planks, bicep curls and sit-ups are all great exercisesthat work various upper body muscles. Depending on the severity of your injury,you may also be able to participate in forms of exercise such as kayaking,bicycling, walking or swimming while you are in recovery. Activities likeswimming are low-impact and protect your joints, yet still offer a highcalorie-burning workout.
While youre in recovery for your knee injury, create a series of exercises that get your heart rate up without putting stress on your knee. Warm up with a 10-minute walk or swim, then try this workout three times a week to stay in shape:
Complete 3 rounds of10 reps for each exercise
- Side lying leg raise
- Overhead dumbbellpress
- Seated Russian twists
Even after youre healed and cleared to work out at a normalpace, its important to ease back into your regular routine. Dont be afraid tomake modifications to certain exercises and make sure you stretch or foam rollafter each workout.
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How Does Physical Therapy Treat Pain
Physical therapists are experts not only in treating pain, but also its source. Yours will look for areas of weakness or stiffness that may be adding stress to the places that hurt. And they will treat those areas with certain exercises to ease pain and help you move better.
In a physical therapy session, you may do a mix of:
Low-impact aerobic training. These workouts will rev up your heart rate and still take it easy on your joints. For instance, you might walk fast or use a stationary bike to warm up, instead of running, before you do your strengthening exercises.
Strengthening exercises. You might use machines at your physical therapistâs office, resistance bands, or your own body weight . You may work on your core muscles , as well as other parts of your body.
Pain relief exercises. These moves target areas where you have pain, so you’re stronger and more flexible — which should make it easier to live your life.
Stretching. This will be gentle, and your therapist will make sure that you’re warmed up and you donât stretch too far.
Your physical therapist may prescribe exercises for you to do at home.
How A Weak Gluteus Medius Contributes To Knee Pain During Exercise
The gluteus medius is one of the lesser known glute muscles but plays a vital role in key movements at the hip.And when the gluteus medius is weak, youre unable to properly control your femur. As a result it slightly rotates inward to compensate – which happens anytime you stand, walk, or perform lower body exercises like the squat for example….And this inward rotation creates excessive stress on the knees in different areas, hence creating the knee pain you might be feeling.And not only do multiplestudies agree with this and show a strong positive correlation between a weak gluteus medius and resulting knee pain…But studies ALSO indicate that strengthening a weak gluteus medius seems to drastically reduce knee pain and joint loading.With one 2011 study by Dolak and colleagues demonstrating a 43% reduction in knee pain in just 4 weeks after incorporating gluteus medius strengthening exercises:
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Beware The Weekend Warrior Effect
Of course, no workout takes place in a vacuum: What your knees can handle today depends on what youve been doing with them over the preceding weeks and months. Thats why the arrival of ski season is a source of predictable carnage for physical therapists, as enthusiastic weekend warriors hit the slopes after months of inactivity.
Dr. Whittaker suggested taking the first day on the slopes easy and being willing to cut subsequent days short when it feels like your leg muscles or joints have had enough. Its pacing, she said. Its adapting to the capacity of your body to handle the load.
Better yet, she strongly suggested doing some strength training to prepare your legs before putting any new stresses on them. A simple, generic program of squats and lunges can strengthen the muscles that keep the knee stable and stiffen the tendons and ligaments around the joint. For starters, aim for three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions, lifting a weight that leaves you with shaky muscles and the feeling that you could have done two or three more reps if necessary.
Before You Get Started
- Always get guidance from a medical professional prior to starting any exercise program. This is not intended to act as medical advice, and you shouldnt disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you read here.
- Always warm up before an exercise.
- Slow and steady wins the race. Dont push yourself through an exercise if its too difficult.
- Theres a difference between pain and discomfort. These exercises should not create any type of pain in the knee. If you feel pain, you should stop the exercise immediately. You may feel your muscles get sore or tired during or after ther exercises.
- You may feel your muscles get sore or tired during or after an exercise, but it shouldnt be painful afterwards. Take plenty of rest in the days between your workouts.
- Remember to perform the relief exercises on both legs.
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Thigh And Hip Strengthening Seated Leg Raises
This exercise strengthens the muscles in the front of the thigh, the quadriceps.
Repeat with the right leg. Perform 3 sets of 12 repetitions on each side.
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Common Causes Of Inner Knee Pain
There are a variety of causes of inner knee pain. Many of them can be linked to an injury. Some of the most common incidents that cause knee injury and pain include falls, sports injuries, or increased activity.
Adults particularly those older than 60 are most likely to experience knee pain. However, inner knee pain can also occur in children and adolescents.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, the most common causes of inner knee pain in children are:
- patellar subluxation
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The End To Chronic Achy Knees
Expectation needs to be considered when going through some of these guidelines. The length of time your symptoms have been going on, can determine how long it might take your symptoms to subside. If youre thinking that these are going to solve all your problems after youve been experiencing knee pain for months or years, then you will likely be disappointed. Understand that getting long standing pain under control, and to where you build back up tolerance to the stresses of high level training or athletics, can take time.
In the end, knee pain doesnt have to be overly complicated. Again the goal wasnt to provide you with a specific plan to address a certain knee condition. It was more to give you a guide to refer to so that youre exhausting all of your options before making any long term decisions about your knee. Addressing what the low hanging fruit is to help get your knee discomfort under control is the best place to start. Always consult with a healthcare professional who understands the rigors of athletics and training, as theyll be able to problem solve exactly what the source of the issue is for you, and then reverse engineer a plan of action to get you back on track.
Take Time For A Warmup
Regardless of what exercise you prefer, its important to start with warmups and easy stretches to prep your muscles and joints for more intense movements. Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds, remembering to breathe. Exercising with stiff muscles can cause joint pain or worsen existing conditions.
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Exercise And Knee Pain
If your knee pain is due to an injury, surgery, or arthritis, gentle stretching and strengthening exercises may help ease the pain while also improving your flexibility and range of motion.
Exercising a knee thats injured or arthritic may seem counterintuitive, but in fact, exercise is better for your knee than keeping it still. Not moving your knee can cause it to stiffen, and this may worsen the pain and make it harder to go about your daily activities.
Gentle stretching and strengthening exercises can strengthen the muscles that support your knee joint. Having stronger muscles can reduce the impact and stress on your knee, and help your knee joint move more easily.
Before you start an exercise program for knee pain, be sure to talk to your doctor or physical therapist to make sure the exercises are safe for you. Depending on your situation, they may recommend some modifications.
Burn A Lot Of Calories
If youre looking for a way to crush your calorie burn in a short amount of time, jump on the elliptical. Depending on how much you weigh, this cardio machine can burn about 270 to 400 calories in 30 minutes. The lower end of the range represents a person weighing 125 pounds, while the higher end is for someone weighing 185 pounds.
Burning more calories than you consume can help you lose weight. To boost your calorie burn, consider increasing the intensity of your elliptical workouts.
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Allows For Interval Training
Interval training allows you to alternate short bursts of intense exercise with longer intervals of less intense exercise. This type of training can help you burn more calories in less time, and also elevate your cardio fitness.
Stationary bikes allow for varied resistance levels, so you can exercise at low, medium, or high intensities. This makes it ideal for an interval training workout.
Exercising At Home Or Work
The best knee exercises may be the ones you can do at home or even during a break at the office. Theyre easy, effective, and convenient, and dont require any special equipment. Do them slowly and gradually increase the number of repetitions as your muscles get stronger.
Afterward, be sure to do a few gentle stretching exercises to help prevent your muscles from tightening up. Consider exercising your knees every other day to give sore muscles a rest.
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How I Continued To Exercise For Knee Pain Prevention
Once I returned home, on my first workout on July 17th I picked up where I left off on the Med X leg press: 200 pounds at seat setting 10, for 17 reps.
On my next two leg press sessions, I kept the weight the same and gradually increased the range of motion:
7/31/18: 200 pounds at seat setting 9, 14 reps
8/14/2018: 200 pounds at seat setting 8, 14 reps.
On 8/28/18, I moved back over to the Nautilus leg press, and performed 15 pain-free reps with 360 pounds at seat setting 9 on 9/4 I used 400 pounds for 13 reps at seat setting 8, and Ive stayed at seat setting 8 ever since.
Side Note: The leg press exercises is my Workout A lower body exercise for knee pain prevention. I alternate this with my Workout B, which contains a different exercise, typically the leg extension machine.
Fast forward to April 23rd, 2019, I did 540 for 12 reps on the Nautilus leg press, and on January 20th, 2021 I did 270 for 10 reps on the Med X leg press. So after a knee injury, at 60+ years old, I have continued to get stronger, training once a week for under 45 minutes.
Injuries are something that can ruin your plans and get in the way of creating lasting memories if you dont have a system for dealing with them.
The best thing is to stay strong to reduce the risk of an injury in the first place.
A good baseline level of strength allows you to recover faster when something does happen. So you need a sustainable program that youll be able to easily stick with over the long haul.