What Are the 7 Best Exercises for Knee Pain?

Medically Reviewed on 12/28/2021

Common causes of knee pain

Knee pain is a common problem that can have a number of different causes. The seven best exercises for knee pain are the single-leg lift, leg stretch, hamstring curls, sit to stand, seated leg lift, heel step up and quad stretch with towel roll.
Knee pain is a common problem that can have a number of different causes. The seven best exercises for knee pain are the single-leg lift, leg stretch, hamstring curls, sit to stand, seated leg lift, heel step up and quad stretch with towel roll.

Knee pain is a common problem that can have a number of different causes. To relieve your pain, there are several different exercises that you can do at home with little or no equipment necessary.

Knee pain can be caused by injury, stress, or a medical condition. Knee injuries either from sports or impact can tear or stretch the soft tissue of your knee. Overtraining or repetitive motions can have the same effect. Poor posture or flat feet can add extra stress to your knees, causing pain. Sometimes, simply wearing the wrong kind of shoes for your body type or activity can result in pain.

Another common cause of knee pain is osteoarthritis. This is when the cartilage in your knee wears away over time as you get older. Osteoarthritis causes tenderness, stiffness, or swelling in the knee. Loss of cartilage in the knee can cause chronic joint inflammation. There isn’t any way to reverse the cartilage loss, but exercising and keeping your knees strong can help with your symptoms.

Why exercise with knee pain?

If you have a knee injury, it’s vital that you see your doctor and ask their advice before you begin any sort of exercise program. Some types of knee injury can be made worse with poorly chosen exercises. But some exercises and stretches can actually improve some kinds of knee pain. Strengthening the muscles that support your knee can reduce or even prevent further injury or damage. Muscles like the quadriceps and hamstrings reduce the stress put on your knee by absorbing shock. The stronger these muscles are, the less strain is put on your knee.

As you strengthen your muscles through exercise be sure to stretch them also, to increase flexibility. Strengthening exercises can cause your muscles to get tighter. Tight muscles can more easily lead to injury. Light stretches can loosen your muscles, keep you from getting sore, and help improve flexibility. This also can reduce further injury to the knee.

7 knee pain exercises

To begin these knee pain exercises, make sure that you start slowly. If the exercises cause you more pain, stop. If you feel sore the next day, let your body rest and recover before you continue. Before you begin, you might want to warm up with five to ten minutes of low-impact exercises, such as walking, biking, or jogging.

  1. Single-leg lift. Lie flat on the floor and bend the knee that doesn’t hurt so that it’s pointing toward the ceiling. Your affected leg should be straight out. Keep your hips straight and still and lift your leg as high as you can without moving your hips. Hold it for five seconds and then lower it back down to the floor. Do as many repetitions as you want.
  2. Leg stretch. A simple leg stretch for knee pain can be done after the single-leg lift. Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you. Slowly, bring one knee toward your chest while keeping your foot on the floor. When you feel a gentle stretch, hold it for five seconds and then straighten it out again. Do it again with the other leg and repeat this stretch ten times on each side.
  3. Hamstring curls. Stand up straight and grab the back of a sturdy chair to help you balance. Balance your weight on one leg and bend the other so that your heel moves toward your bottom. Hold it for five seconds, return to a two-legged stand, then switch legs. Repeat.
  4. Sit to stand. Sit in your exercise chair and place your feet wide with your heels on the floor. Keep your chest straight, lean forward from your hips, and stand up, putting your weight on your heels. Hold for a moment and then slowly lower yourself back into the chair.
  5. Seated leg lift. Sit in your chair with both feet on the ground. Lift one leg and point it straight out as far as you comfortably can. Hold this position for five seconds. Return your foot to the floor and repeat with the other leg.
  6. Heel step up. Stand in front of an exercise stair and step up. Bring the other foot to the step before stepping back down to the floor. Up, up, down, down. Don’t let your knee bend farther over your toes, they should be in-line.
  7. Quad stretch with towel roll. This is another good floor- or bed-based stretch for knee pain. Sit on a flat surface with your legs out straight. Roll up a towel and place it under one of your knees. Push down on the towel and try to straighten your knee. Pull your toes toward you so that you feel your calf muscle stretch. Lift your stretched leg until the heel rises off the floor and hold it for five seconds. Lower and repeat ten times with each leg.

If your knee pain gets worse, make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as possible. Let your doctor know if your pain lasts for several weeks and doesn’t get better or if the level of pain increases. Also let your doctor know if your knee starts to lock up or give way while you’re standing.

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Medically Reviewed on 12/28/2021

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