You can do many things to help knee pain, whether it’s due to a recent injury or arthritis you’ve had for years.
Follow these 11 dos and don’ts to help your knees feel their best.
Don’t rest too much. Too much rest can weaken your muscles, which can worsen joint pain. Find an exercise program that is safe for your knees and stick with it. If you’re not sure which motions are safe or how much you can do, talk with your doctor or a physical therapist.
Do exercise. Cardio exercises strengthen the muscles that support your knee and increase flexibility. Weight training and stretching do, too. For cardio, some good choices include walking, swimming, water aerobics, stationary cycling, and elliptical machines. Tai chi may also help ease stiffness and improve balance.
Don’t risk a fall. A painful or unstable knee can make a fall more likely, which can cause more knee damage. Curb your risk of falling by making sure your home is well lit, using handrails on staircases, and using a sturdy ladder or foot stool if you need to reach something from a high shelf.
Do use “RICE.” Rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) is good for knee pain caused by a minor injury or an arthritis flare. Give your knee some rest, apply ice to reduce swelling, wear a compressive bandage, and keep your knee elevated.
Don’t overlook your weight. If you’re overweight, losing weight reduces the stress on your knee. You don’t even need to get to your “ideal” weight. Smaller changes still make a difference.
Don’t be shy about using a walking aid. A crutch or cane can take the stress off of your knee. Knee splints and braces can also help you stay stable.
Do consider acupuncture. This form of traditional Chinese medicine, which involves inserting fine needles at certain points on the body, is widely used to relieve many types of pain and may help knee pain.
Don’t let your shoes make matters worse. Cushioned insoles can reduce stress on your knees. For knee osteoarthritis, doctors often recommend special insoles that you put in your shoe. To find the appropriate insole, speak with your doctor or a physical therapist.
- 6 Ways to Keep your Knees Pain-free
- 6 Reasons Why Your Knees Hurt When Running—Plus How to Make ‘Em Ache Less
- Summit Medical Group Web Site
- Preventing Knee Injury and Knee Pain
- Understanding Your Knees
- To help prevent knee injury and knee pain:
- When You Have Knee Pain
- 5 Tips for Preventing Knee Pain
- Avoid knee pain by improving leg muscle strength, flexibility
- 1. Don’t skip the exercise, even if you have a structural problem.
- 2. Whether you’re active or not, stretching is good for the knees.
- A well-conditioned, flexible body is less likely to develop overuse problems in the knees.
- 3. Losing weight can improve knee pain.
- 4. Wearing the proper shoes is important for healthy knees.
- 5. Stand up straight to feel better.
- How Athletes Avoid Knee Injuries When Competing, Practicing, Training or Working Out
- If you’re an athlete
- Protect Your Knees for the Future
- Do Your Stretches
- Warm Up
- Use Therapeutic Heat
- Ice Injuries
- Wear the Right Equipment
- Prioritize Rest
- See a Sports Physical Therapist
- True Sports Physical Therapy – Where Maryland Athletes Rehab
6 Ways to Keep your Knees Pain-free
As football players, ballerinas, and high-mileage runners can tell you, you’re as old as your knees. The same goes for active women. For me, it wasn’t the usual suspects, basketball or downhill skiing, that added unwanted years. Those little aches and pops, I learned, were due to too much rigorous walking without enough rest.
With knees you need to be careful not to overuse or abuse, says Etty Griffin, M.D., staff orthopedist at Peachtree Orthopedic Clinic in Atlanta. Whether it’s more hills or faster walking than you’re used to, doing too much too fast can be stressful for tissue around the knee.
Any exercise with rigorous knee bending (remember Tae-Bo?) is a possible culprit, says Griffin. Any unfamiliar activity taken on very quickly can lead to problems. Tissue needs time to heal, or microtears from overuse can cause pain.
A lopsided workout plan can also be hard on the knees. When fitness walking, some muscles are overused, while others are not used at all, says John Jay Wooldridge, Reebok master trainer. The imbalance can stress the related joints.
But don’t get the idea that knee problems are inevitable. Cross-training, stretching, and strengthening can all help knees stay pain-free. While knee pain should always be checked with a doctor to rule out injury, early arthritis, or other serious conditions, the good news is that knee pain from overuse is usually solvable with ice, rest, and controlled exercises that promote healing, says Griffin.
These six exercises target often-neglected areas that support the knee, such as hamstrings, quadriceps, lower back, and gluteal muscles. For women in particular, quadriceps muscles may be overdeveloped on the outside compared with the inside, which can pull the kneecap off balance. To build a more balanced body, Wooldridge recommends doing this routine two to three times a week, ideally following a walk, when muscles are warmed up. Do the stretches last, as part of a cool-down.
1. Straight Leg Lift
Targets: Quadriceps and hip flexors. Complements the walking motion by working muscles in opposition that may be underused, such as the smaller quadriceps muscles of the thigh.
Cues: Begin lying on back with right leg straight and extended; left knee is bent, with left foot flat on floor. Contract right thigh muscles to straighten (but not lock) the knee. Slowly raise leg until knees are parallel, then lower. Repeat 8 to 12 times, working up to 2 sets on each side.
To advance: Begin holding to a 35 count in the up position.
2. Wall Sit
Targets: This multi-dimensional exercise targets the hamstrings, quadriceps, gluteal muscles, and abdominal muscles. A lower-intensity alternative to squats and lunges.
Cues: Stand with lower back against an exercise ball of about 25 inches that rests against a wall. Feet are shoulder-width apart and a comfortable distance from the wall. Body is erect. Slowly bend knees and lower body until thighs are parallel with the floor; keep knees above (not in front of) feet, and abs contracted to avoid excess sway in the back. Pause at the bottom, then roll back up. Repeat 8 to 12 times, working up to two sets. to advance: Increase pause at the bottom to three, five, or even 10 counts.
Targets: Glutes, hamstrings, and trunk, including lower back and abdominal muscles.
Cues: Lie flat on back, with arms by sides, palms up. Both knees are bent, feet flat on the floor. Using abdominal and gluteal muscles, slowly lift trunk and hips off floor with a smooth, controlled motion. Squeeze buttocks at the top, then slowly lower. Keep pressure on the shoulders, not on the head, and do not push with the hands.
If you feel cramping in the hamstrings, you’ll know they’re working too hard; lower slightly to relieve that tightening. Repeat 8 to 12 times, working up to two sets. to advance: Hold the up position for a 35 count.
4. Single Calf Raise
Targets: Ankle stability is critical to proper knee alignment. This move builds calf strength and ankle stability, as well as body coordination and balance.
Cues: Hold onto a chair or support yourself against a wall, and lift right leg into a hamstring curl (shin parallel to the ground); extend left ankle and lift body on the toes. Slowly lower and repeat 8 to 12 times.
Finishing stretch: Step forward with right leg, keeping left leg straight and left heel on the ground, for a gentle calf stretch. Hold for 6 to 8 slow, deep breaths; then repeat exercise and stretch on the other side. Do two sets on each side.
To advance: Add a third set, placing hands on hips for balance.
5. Quadriceps Stretch
Targets: Quadriceps, hip flexors.
Cues: Lying on side, with hips and shoulders stacked, pull the top foot toward the buttocks with the top hand. If you have trouble, use a towel or T-shirt to extend grip; foot does not have to reach buttocks; pull to the point of feeling a gentle stretch, not pain. Keep knees in alignment, then slowly pull top knee back behind the other knee, while maintaining stacked hip. Hold for 6 to 8 slow, deep breaths. Repeat 2 to 3 times on each side.
6. Modified Hurdlers Stretch
Targets: Hamstrings, gluteal muscles, lower back.
Cues: While seated, extend one leg straight (do not lock knee) and place bottom of the other foot against that knee. Holding shoulders and hips square and back straight, slowly lower torso toward straight leg. Do not collapse through chest or round the back. Gentle pressure on the bent leg will stretch the inner thigh. Hold for 6 to 8 slow, deep breaths; repeat 2 to 3 times on each side.
To keep your knees healthy, follow these tips from our trainer.
Dos for Healthy Knees:
- Always see a doctor if you experience knee pain that is not relieved by several days of rest, ice, massage, and elevation.
- Back off from activities such as walking hills or knee-bending exercises that cause you pain.
- Build adequate muscle strength, especially in the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and ankles.
- Stretch adequately, emphasizing quad and hamstring muscles. Warm up before stretching.
- When doing squats, lunges, or leg presses, avoid locking knees completely. Use low weight and high repetitions.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Wear shoes appropriate for an activity. Seek proper arch support if your feet roll in.
- Cross-train. Do 2 to 3 activities on a regular basis to balance out the body.
Don’ts for Healthy Knees:
- Don’t ignore or exercise through pain.
- Never overdo unfamiliar activities.
- While walking, Don’t exaggerate your stride, overarch the back, or lock knees as you extend.
- On an elliptical trainer, exercise bike, or stair climber, never straighten legs completely.
- Don’t overextend knees, especially while pregnant, when hormonal changes allow for greater fluidity of movement.
- Don’t give up on exercise completely because of pain without checking with your doctor about alternatives.
- Don’t forget that overall stability, torso strength, and proper posture are key.
6 Reasons Why Your Knees Hurt When Running—Plus How to Make ‘Em Ache Less
If you’ve recently upped your mileage or have increased your intensity in a short amount of time, the overuse of your knee can cause the tendons surrounding it to become strained and inflamed. This overuse is called tendonitis and can make your morning jogs pretty miserable.
Fix it: Tendonitis issues can typically be resolved with rest, ice, compression, and easing back into your usual routine. Scott Weiss, D.P.T., licensed physical therapist, board-certified athletic trainer, and exercise physiologist also recommends eccentric exercises (here’s more about what that means) to gently stretch the tendons and prevent knee pain when running.
3. Runner’s Knee
Similar to ITBFS, runner’s knee occurs when cartilage in the kneecap is irritated, causing mild to moderate pain when running. With this condition, your knees hurt when running, when going up and down stairs, or after prolonged periods of sitting. Contrast that to the feeling of tightness—a sign of ITBFS.
Fix it: Hamstring stretches and leg lifts can help runner’s knee, according to Dr. Popovitz. Do these post-run stretches to help your legs get stronger and prevent mid-run aches. (If your knees hurt when running, cannabis creams might be able to help. But are they safe and do they really work?)
4. Meniscus Tear
Your meniscus sits on both the inside and outside of your knees, helping to provide stability and distribute the stress of the weight you put on your joints. One wonky bend or fall can tear the meniscus, which typically results in slight knee swelling (anywhere from immediately to an hour after), and pain when bending your knee.
Fix it: The only way to confirm a meniscus tear is to go see your doctor, who will usually follow up with an MRI. While some outer tears may heal with rest, larger tears may call for surgery.
5. ACL and/or MCL Tears
Ligament tears can happen for a number of reasons, such as twisting your knee funny (say, as you stumble in a divot or pothole during a run) to extending your knee too far or having to stop suddenly mid-stride. Your ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) is the ligament that connects the thigh bone to the shin bone on the outside of your knee while your MCL (medial collateral ligament) does the same on the inside of your knee.
Fix it: Though rare for the everyday casual runner, if you hear a loud pop, experience sudden or extreme pain, or have difficulty putting any weight on your leg, you may have an ACL or MCL tear and should see a doctor as soon as possible for your best course of action and rehabilitation plan. (Related: How One Woman Recovered From Two ACL Tears and Came Back Stronger Than Ever)
6. Knee Sprain
If you’re feeling a little creaky and tender and your knees hurt when running and beyond, your knees may be taking more abuse than they can stand. Maybe it was extra miles, or a bad fall on that last loop of the track. When this happens, your knee extends past its comfortable point and sprains. (Psst…here are four warning signs you might be overdoing it at the gym.)
Fix it: Get yourself checked out by a doctor, and make sure to rest, ice, and elevate your knees whenever possible. Compression is also important, just don’t wrap your knee too tightly, as that could cause more swelling. OTC medications can also help reduce inflammation and pain so you can get back on your feet faster.
What to Do If Your Knees Hurt When Running
If your knees hurt when running, try these eight pro tips to heal faster (or prevent knee pain before it starts).
1. Get fitted for the right shoes.
“The foot is made up of 26 bones, 33 joints, 19 muscles, and 107 ligaments, and these take the brunt of the pounding with each step of the day,” explains Pamela Kopfensteiner, D.P.T., physical therapist at Professional Physical Therapy in New Jersey. You need running shoes that support your natural construction-high arches, pronation, supination-and diffuse the impact shooting up the rest of your leg. Hit your local running store and ask for a gait analysis, which will tell you exactly what support you need, Kopfensteiner suggests. (Related: The 2019 Shape Sneaker Awards Have a Pair for Every Occasion)
2. Strengthen your hips and core.
You’ve probably heard by now that even if you’re a runner, you should be strength training (after all, it can take you one step closer to a PR). But there are certain areas to pay special attention to when it comes to preventing knee pain. A study of 400 healthy female runners published in Medicine & Science in Exercise & Sports found that, over two years, women who developed runner’s knee had much greater pelvic instability—that is, weakness in their hips—compared to runners who didn’t experience knee issues. Meanwhile, a study in the Journal of Athletic Training found that almost 80 percent of aching runners who strength trained with a focus on their hips and core or knees and thighs reported their knees hurt when running significantly less after just three or four weeks of lifting.
Women should focus on hips and core strength most, says D. S. Blaise Williams III, Ph.D., director of VCU RUN LAB at Virginia Commonwealth University. Kopfensteiner agrees: “Running is unique in that there is a ‘flight’ stage—a point in time when neither foot is on the ground,” she explains. “While in midair, it’s your core’s job to control the rate at which your extremities return to the ground. When the control is increased, the force shooting through your joints when landing decreases and prevents injury to the knee joints.”
Strength train once or twice a week. (Our ultimate strength training routine for runners is a good place to start!) Or design-your-own plan with planks, side planks, medicine ball core rotations, clamshells, fire hydrants, and open chain hip abduction. Then move up to plyometric exercises such as jump squats, jumping lunges, and single leg landings. Once you conquer this, add uphill sprints to your training schedule, Williams adds.
3. Don’t rush training.
Once signing up for a race, your instinct may be to ramp up your mileage ASAP—but that’s actually one of the worst things you can do—especially if your knees hurt when running. “It takes time for the body to adapt to training, and your ligaments and tendons improve slower than the muscles since they get less blood flow,” explains Sharman. “Even if your muscles feel ready to take on more and more, it’s important to allow enough time for the support around the joints to catch up.” A good rule of thumb: Don’t increase mileage more than 10 percent each week. (Related: 5 Mistakes Runners Often Make On Race Day)
4. Train off-road.
“Running on trails and hills can increase the variety of movement and build up a more even level of strength and stability through the legs and joints,” Sharman says. Williams adds that while there isn’t a big difference among pavement, track, gravel, or trails as far as knee torque and impact are concerned, there are variables for how unstable the surface is or how much you need to pay attention (think: roots, curbs, cars). “All of these conditions result in the muscles contracting for stability, which results in shorter, more controlled steps—which is why many runners report more comfortable runs on trails or grass,” Williams explains. (Here’s how to score all of the seriously awesome benefits of trail running.)
Aim to veer onto different terrain at least once a week. (The closer you get to the event, though, the more you should train on that terrain, Sharman adds—so pavement for a road race, trails for a trail race.) The one terrain to stay away from if your knees hurt when running? Sand. “A run on the beach sounds romantic but it results in a huge load on the calf muscles that you may not be ready for,” Williams adds, which can impact all of the surrounding joints, too.
5. Lean forward.
“The way the foot hits the ground when running contributes to forces which impact the knee joint,” says Kopfensteiner. Leaning slightly forward while running can decrease these forces. And in fact, research has proven that leaning slightly forward during a run transfers your weight from your knees to your hips, thereby reducing pain. Try it: Flex more at the hip and allow your torso to come forward seven to 10 degrees. (Related: Simple Form Tweaks to Make Running Feel a Thousand Times Easier)
6. Increase your stride rate.
“Stride rate is likely the most important factor we know of right now that is easily changeable and reduces both acute and cumulative load on the knee,” says Williams. Shorter steps that propel you to a faster pace decrease the force the quadriceps place on the knee cap, he explains. And in fact, a small study in the Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy found that when runners go slow, they do decrease the load on their knee per stride, but they actually increase the load over their entire run since every stride adds up. When the study participants ran faster, they reduced the overall stress on their knees by 30 percent compared to their easy pace. There is no single optimal number, Williams says, but if you are below 160 steps per minute, you should try and increase that by five to 10 percent.
And that’s way easier to do than it sounds. Try this if your knees hurt when running: Determine your steps per minute by getting on a treadmill and having your friend track how many times your right (or left) foot strikes the ground in 60 seconds. Double that number. If it’s above 160, you’re in the clear; if it’s under, calculate a five percent increase, then turn to Spotify’s playlist listed by BPM that matches that goal rate. Your brain and legs will automatically try and match the new cadence, though it’ll take about four to six weeks of practice to make it habitual, Williams adds.
7. Stay in control downhill.
“The tendency when running downhill is to over-stride or reach out,” Williams points out. Remember, you want shorter steps to decrease the force on your knees, so maintain your stride rate when going downhill, he suggests. Plus, it’s a quad killer if you launch down the hill too fast—so stay in control.
8. Replace your running shoes.
Running shoes are specifically designed to absorb the shock each time your foot pounds the pavement. But the more you wear them, the more worn down the shock absorption becomes, increasing the forces shooting up your joints—a recipe for knee pain, Kopfensteiner says. (Related: The Best Running and Athletic Shoes For Every Type of Workout, According to a Podiatrist)
While it’s true that shoes break down over time, it’s not clear how many miles or months sends them into the graveyard, Williams adds. Expert opinions range between advising you toss your shoes every 300 miles to every 600 miles—which is a massive difference. “Some runners are tough on their equipment while others are not, but most runners will feel when they need new shoes,” he adds. If your knees hurt when running, check out the bottom of your shoe. If the tread is significantly worn, if there are creases in the midsole, or if you can more easily bend the shoe, it’s probably time for new kicks.
- By Rachael Schultz @_RSchultz
- By Rachael Schultz and Colleen Travers
Summit Medical Group Web Site
Preventing Knee Injury and Knee Pain
Reviewed by Rafael E. Pajaro, MD
If you have had knee pain, you know it can be aggravating at the very least and debilitating at worst. Whether your knee pain is a result of arthritis or a temporary injury, there are steps you can take to alleviate and protect against it. In come cases, you can avoid knee pain altogether!
Recent data suggest that exercise, including techniques for strengthening and stretching muscles that support the knees, as well as physical therapy often are as effective as surgical options for relieving arthritis knee pain.1
Understanding Your Knees
Your knees are comprised of 4 bones, with the thigh bone (or femur) at the top of the joint and 2 leg bones (the tibula and fibula) making up the lower part of the joint. On the top of the knee, a fourth bone known as the patella slides in a shallow groove on the end of the femur. Four main bands of tough but flexible, stretchy connective tissue (much like strong rubberbands) connect the femur to the tibia and help hold the knee bones together to create a moveable, hinge-like structure that rotates as it bends. Because of its unique ability to rotate and bend, the knee is known as a swivel joint.
Other structures in your knee include fibrous bands of tissue known as tendons that connect muscles to bones. The knee has 2 major tendons— the quadriceps tendon, which connects the long quadriceps muscle on the front of the thigh to the patella, and the patellar tendon, which connects the patella to the tibia. Both the quadriceps and patellar tendons enable you to straighten and extend your leg. The hamstrings muscles at the back top of the leg also help stabilize the knee joint.
Your knee also includes the meniscus — C-shaped cartilage that curves around the in- and outside of the knee and cushions the joint. Fluid-filled sacs called bursae surround the knee, help cushion the joint, and allow the ligaments and tendons to slide smothly across it.
Altogether, the ligaments, tendons, and muscles support and stablize your knee joint. Weakness in any of them increases the likelihood of an injury to the joint.
To help prevent knee injury and knee pain:
- Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight places excess stress on all your joints, especially those of the hips, lower back, knees, ankles, and feet. Excess stress on joints can increase your risk of osteoarthritis. In addition, studies show that people who are overweight tend to have weaker quadricep muscles that help support the knee.
- Wear supportive, stable, well-fitted shoes
In addition to increasing the pressure on your knees, wearing high heels can tighten and shorten your calf muscles — a condition that can pull the foot too far inward (overpronation). When feet pronate excessively, the arch of the foot can collapse and cause the lower leg to roll inward, stressing the ankle and knee. Flat shoes or shoes with 1-inch or shorter heels, shoes that fit well and keep your foot from sliding left to right and front to back, and shoes with a cushioned sole are ideal for protecting your knees. Shoes with a rubber, nonslip sole can help prevent you from sliding on slippery surfaces, which also can injure your knees. If you walk, run, and exercise regularly, change your workout shoes every 3 months or more often to ensure there is enough cushion to protect your knees as well as your feet, ankles, hips, and back.
- Keep leg, hip, butt, and core muscles strong
Having strong muscles overall helps protect all your joints, including your knees. Strong core muscles are the foundation of good posture and healthy skeletal alignment, both of which are necessary to equally distribute pressure on joints and protect knees from sustaining too much pressure. Strong hip, leg, and butt muscles are especially good for taking the pressure off your knees.
- Gently and regularly stretch the muscles that support your knees
Stretching your calf, quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors, and butt muscles helps promote flexibility and joint mobility. Studies show that staying flexible overall is key to maintaining healthy joints as you age.
- Avoid kneeling on hard surfaces without knee pads or a cushion
Kneeling on hard surfaces and repetitive kneeling can compress and damage the bursae (bursitis) that cushion and protect your ligaments and tendons.
When You Have Knee Pain
If you have knee tenderness or knee pain, see your doctor. He or she can help determine what is causing the pain and, in many cases, recommend nonsurgical options such as icing, elevating, compressing, and resting the knee. In some cases, your doctor might recommend physical therapy to help increase your flexibility and strengthen the muscles that help support your knee. Although severe knee problems can benefit from surgery, your doctor is likely to recommend nonsurgical options first and whenever possible to relieve your pain.
Pisters MF, et al. Exercise adherence improving long-term patient outcome in patients with osteoarthritis of the hip and/or knee. Arth Care Res. 2010. 62(8); 1087-1094.
5 Tips for Preventing Knee Pain
Avoid knee pain by improving leg muscle strength, flexibility
As the largest joint in your body, the knee takes on its fair share of impact. Not surprisingly, knee pain is a common complaint among people of all ages. The most common causes include inflammation caused by improper lifting of heavy objects, poor flexibility, bad shoes, muscle weakness, starting high-impact fitness routines without warming up and structural knee problems, such as arthritis, torn cartilage or ligament damage.
“People who have inflammation issues almost always respond to physical therapy, medication or rehabilitation and almost never require surgery,” says Charles Bush-Joseph, MD, a sports medicine surgeon at Rush. “But those with structural issues are more likely to need some kind of surgery or arthroscopic surgery to repair the damage.”
So how can you tell the difference between inflammation and structural problems? According to Bush-Joseph, people who are able to extend their knees straight without pain typically have less serious inflammation issues. Whereas people often have structural damage when their knees are visibly swollen or they cannot get into a squatting position with their knees at 90-degree angles.
“Knee pain can happen to anyone at any age,” says Bush-Joseph. “Usually if patient’s knees are swollen and they are in pain, I have them ice the knees, stretch and take some anti-inflammatory medications for seven to 10 days. If their knees are still visibly and persistently swollen for longer than that, that warrants further evaluation, including imaging tests like an X-ray or MRI.”
Bush-Joseph offers these five tips for preventing knee pain:
1. Don’t skip the exercise, even if you have a structural problem.
The key is to know your limits. Strength training that focuses heavily on building up muscles in the quadriceps and hamstrings can decrease pain and help people better tolerate arthritis and other structural knee problems. Staying active helps control weight and build muscle, both of which can help protect your knees from further damage.
The best exercises for people with structural knee problems include nonimpact aerobic exercises, such as walking on level ground, training on an elliptical machine, using a stationary bike, swimming and doing water aerobics. It’s also wise to avoid activities that put extra stress on the knees such as kneeling, deep knee bends and downhill running.
2. Whether you’re active or not, stretching is good for the knees.
Stretches that focus on the calf, hamstring and quadriceps muscles take pressure off of the knees and kneecaps. “Many people often say there is no aerobic value in stretching, so they see it as a waste of time,” says Bush-Joseph. “But a well-conditioned, flexible body is less likely to develop overuse problems in the knees.”
Some good stretches to protect the knees include step-ups, hamstring curls and straight-leg lifts. Additionally, stretches that focus on building flexibility in the hips, including a butterfly stretch and a standing hip flexor with a resistance band, can help alleviate knee pain.
People who do not like to stretch before a workout can still protect their knees by slowly ramping up to top speed rather than jumping full speed into their workout.
A well-conditioned, flexible body is less likely to develop overuse problems in the knees.
“Warming up the muscles helps prevent injury,” says Bush-Joseph. “If you like to run but you don’t have the time to warm-up and stretch out, you should start your run with 10 to 15 minutes of walking or slow jogging before getting up to peak velocity.”
Here’s how to do these exercises and stretches:
- Step-ups: Stand in front of a small step stool or stairs and lift your body onto the step using one leg. Then step backward down the step with the same leg. Do 10 to 15 step-ups per leg.
- Hamstring curls: Lie on your stomach with your legs straight and your head resting on your arms or the ground. Bend one leg with the heel toward your buttocks. Repeat 10 to 15 times and then switch legs.
- Straight-leg lifts: Lie on the floor on your back, with one leg bent at a 90-degree angle and your foot flat on the ground. Lift the other leg off the ground. Repeat 10 to 15 times and then switch legs.
- Butterfly stretch: Sit up straight with the soles of your feet pressed together. Holding your feet, slowly lean your upper body forward (keeping your back straight). Hold the stretch for 30 seconds to one minute.
- Standing hip flexor: Get into a stride position (body and feet facing forward with one foot stepped further in front). Stand up straight with your abdominal muscles tightened. Keeping your back straight, slowly lunge forward with the front leg. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds to one minute and then switch legs.
3. Losing weight can improve knee pain.
“Your weight plays a major role in knee pain,” says Bush-Joseph. “If you walked around all day with a backpack that had a 10-pound weight in it, you would feel how achy your back, hips and knees are at the end of the day. That shows you the impact extra weight can have on your joints.”
With each step people take, two to four times their body weight is transmitted through the knee joint, according to Bush-Joseph. Thus, the more you weigh, the harder the impact is on your knee joint.
However, people who are overweight and have arthritic knee pain can lessen the impact — and ultimately, relieve knee pain — by losing weight. In fact, people with arthritic knees lose about 20 percent of their pain with every 10 pounds of weight loss.
“If you are 20 pounds overweight and you have arthritic knee pain, almost half of your pain will go away by losing 20 pounds,” says Bush-Joseph. Of course, losing 20 pounds isn’t easy. But, if people are able to lose even 10 pounds and add in some stretching and flexibility training, they’ll experience significantly less pain, according to Bush-Joseph.
4. Wearing the proper shoes is important for healthy knees.
Supportive and comfortable shoes help take pressure off the knee joint by promoting proper leg alignment and balance. So it’s no surprise that wearing high heels is a common cause of knee pain.
“When high heels lift your heel up, your weight bearing line tips forward so your quadriceps have to work harder to hold your knee straight, which then leads to knee pain,” says Bush-Joseph. “Whereas, if your heel is closer to the floor in low pumps or flats, your thigh muscles don’t have to work as hard to maintain stability, which is easier on the knees.”
While strength training and stretching can help build up the muscles around the knees to minimize knee damage from heels, it’s best to save the stilettos for special occasions.
Proper shoes are particularly important during exercise. “If you are taking up running as a newbie or starting a new form of aerobic exercise, getting professionally fitted from someone at a running or sporting goods store can help with knee problems and will certainly lower your incidence of having overuse problems due to footwear,” says Bush-Joseph.
5. Stand up straight to feel better.
“When you slouch you are leaning forward and walking bent over at the waist — and that posture will lead to knee pain,” says Bush-Joseph. “You want your head centered over your shoulders and your shoulders centered over your abdomen and pelvis. The more your body is off-center, the more you have to compensate for that with muscle activity. Those muscles eventually fatigue, causing strain on your joints.”
Having strong core muscles in your abdomen and lower back helps promote good posture and, ultimately, lessens the pressure on your knees. Exercises such as planks, back extensions, yoga and Pilates can help strengthen the core.
Here’s how to do these exercises:
- Planks: Lie face down with your toes pointed to the floor. Put your forearms on the floor with your elbows at 90-degree angles. Tighten your abdominal and gluteal muscles and lift your body off the floor. Keep your back straight and hold for 15 to 45 seconds.
- Back extensions: Lie face down with elbows bent and hands on the floor. Keeping your hips on the floor, lift your head and shoulders up with your arms. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds and repeat five to 10 times.
How Athletes Avoid Knee Injuries When Competing, Practicing, Training or Working Out
If you’re an athlete
… Take special care of your knees to prevent injuries.
… Use stretches and warm-ups to prep your knees for the stress of performing your sport.
… Help your knees recover after competing, training or exercising with either cold or heat.
Protect Your Knees for the Future
Knees are one of the most common body parts to sustain injuries during athletic activities.
Most sports rely on the intricate joint mechanisms within the knee for movement. When you put sudden stress on those parts or wear them down with repetitive motions, they suffer inflammation, tears or fractures.
If you play a sport regularly, you must protect your knees. Knee injuries can put you on the sidelines immediately and the pain can be excruciating. A knee injury can also cause lasting disability if not treated properly.
Luckily, preventing knee injuries is relatively straightforward. You just need to know how to take care of your knees and make a habit of doing so. If a knee injury does occur, your sports physical therapist knows just how to treat it.
Do Your Stretches
The number one rule of good joint health is don’t skip stretching! Stretching aids joint mobility and flexibility, so it’s easier on your knees when you run, jump and cut.
Stretching sessions should include the ankles and hips, too. If any part of your leg isn’t fully engaged before an athletic activity, it could put undue stress on your knees.
Along with stretching, do a proper warm-up routine before jumping into a game or a practice … or a training session or simply a morning run on the beach. You need to prime your body -your heart and lungs, too- for activity with some light exercise that signals to it’s time to get moving.
Warming up literally raises your body temperature and gets your blood flowing so your body is ready for the rigors of your sport. This lessens the shock to your knees when you transition to more forceful actions.
Use Therapeutic Heat
You can really turn up the heat and support good knee health with therapeutic heat. Therapeutic heat promotes good blood circulation around your joints for better function.
Before working out, apply a thermal wrap to your knees for 20-30 minutes or until your knees loosen up. You can use heat to relieve minor knee pain and aid healing of sore tissues, too.
As nice as heat feels on sore muscles and joints, sometimes it’s ice that does the trick. Cold relieves swelling and inflammation from overworked knees. Even if you aren’t in extreme pain, icing your knees after a workout for at least 20 minutes helps your joints recover from the stress they just endured.
Wear the Right Equipment
Whatever your sport, wearing the right clothing and equipment is essential for playing well and protecting yourself from injuries.
Don’t forget your knee pads if your sport requires them. Proper footwear that fits well also can prevent knee injuries from slipping and tripping. You also might find wearing a knee brace is helpful for extra stabilization.
It can be difficult to take a break when you’re training for a season, but the best way to injure yourself is to overdo it. After an intense workout, practice or game, you need to let your knees rest.
That doesn’t mean lay around and allow them to get stiff, however. Find a low-intensity activity to keep your knees engaged without stressing them. Swimming, cycling and yoga are great options.
Of course, you need your rest, too. Getting enough sleep at night, reducing stress with relaxation and taking the time to recuperate from an injury all are necessary for your overall health.
See a Sports Physical Therapist
If you’re having sports-related knee problems, a physical therapist can help. They can analyze and help you improve your technique to lessen the stress on your knees and guide you through strength and conditioning exercises. They also can use treatments like dry needling, cupping and manual therapy to relieve knee pain. Especially if you are recovering form surgery like an ACL reconstruction, you can benefit from orthopedic physical therapy and rehab.
Taking care of your knees as an athlete is essential. Bad knees will prevent you from competing and can last a lifetime. Follow these tips to help prevent and treat strain and injuries so your knees perform better, longer.
True Sports Physical Therapy – Where Maryland Athletes Rehab
At True Sports, we’re sports-focused because you’re sports-focused. The best physical therapists in Baltimore and Maryland provide the highest level of sports physical therapy and expertise you need to get back to your sport. With six convenient state-of-the-art locations to choose from, any athlete who takes their rehab seriously can get awesome care and extraordinary results. Select your location and schedule an appointment and have True Sports get you back to your team. For questions about insurance or self-pay rates, please call our office at 1-401-946-1672.