A Guide To Exercising With Knee Pain

By:    Published: December 6, 2011

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Many people make up excuses to avoid exercising or staying active. Either it’s too far of a drive to go to the gym, or they’re extremely tired from a hard day at the office. Unfortunately, these excuses are only hurting people’s health since physical inactivity can lead to a plethora of problems, especially later on in life as a person’s health deteriorates.

However, those suffering from chronic knee problems are faced with a real issue that can prevent them from staying active and healthy. Pain and discomfort in the knees associated with physical activity can be a real hindrance, not just with exercising, but also going about one’s daily functions. Fortunately, there are ways to overcome such difficulties with commitment and the right techniques. If you are suffering from chronic knee pain, there are ways you can still benefit from exercising without aggravating your condition.

Importance Of Exercise For Knee Pain

Upon the initial onset of knee pain, it is typically recommended to rest and avoid anything that might aggravate pain, especially conducting any weight bearing activities. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and employing the use of the RICE method are typical forms of treatment for sudden knee pain. However, exercise and physical activity is important to strengthen leg muscles and to allow the knee to regain a proper range of motion and flexibility. This is why physiotherapy is often prescribed for knee pain treatment.

Regular exercise can also be used to prevent knee pain by strengthening leg muscles. Weight gain and obesity can have a toll on a person’s knees overtime, which is another reason why exercise is so important for preventing knee pain and problems over time. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), obesity can increase the risk of osteoarthritis of the knees.

In a study published by the British Medical Journal (BMJ), a test group consisting of men and women, aged 45 and suffering from knee pain were divided into four different groups:

  • Group 1: This group was to receive exercise therapy in the form of a simple, home-based exercise regimen.
  • Group 2: This group was only to receive telephone consultation with a physical therapist.
  • Group 3: This group was to receive both telephone contact and exercise therapy.
  • Group 4: This group would receive no form of intervention.

The results of the study showed that those with a home-based exercise regimen showed a significant reduction in knee pain, while those who received telephone consultation showed a lack of improvement. These results confirmed that improvements in pain relief are not just due to the psychological effects of having regular contact with a physical therapist.

Exercising With Knee Pain

Finding the best regimen for exercising to improve knee pain will depend on a person’s particular knee problem. It is advised to consult a physical therapist who can recommend the most suitable forms of exercise to help improve discomfort in the knees. Here is a list of recommended exercises for those suffering from knee pain:

  • Stepmill: The stepmill is a cardio machine with a rotating staircase. It provides a low-impact aerobic workout that is easy on a person’s knee joints.
  • Elliptical: The elliptical is another piece of cardio equipment that offers a low-impact aerobic workout. Its design and range of motion make it less stressful on the knees than a treadmill.
  • Hamstring and quadriceps exercises: Those looking for knee pain relief due to osteoarthritis should try strengthening their quadriceps and hamstrings, which are muscles in the front and back of the thighs. Exercises include leg lifts, squats, hamstring curls and lunges
  • Swimming: Swimming can provide a low-impact aerobic workout that is easy on the knees.
  • Water aerobic exercises: Water aerobics is considered a great choice for anyone suffering from joint problems. Calf lifts, jumping jacks and feet pedaling are typical, water aerobic exercises.
  • Cycling: Whether it’s on a stationary bike or a regular bicycle, cycling offers a low-impact workout that is easy on the joints, but is great for getting the heart rate going.
  • Walking: Walking is one of the easiest exercises for knee pain and can be performed virtually anywhere.

Exercise Tips

  • A light warm-up is recommended before exercising and participating in sports. Low-impact activities like walking or using a stationary bike can be especially helpful.
  • After a proper warm-up, a person should properly stretch, focusing on the quadriceps and hamstrings. This will help reduce tension on the tendons and pressure on the knees while exercising.
  • Exercise intensity should be increased gradually. There should not be a sudden change in temp, intensity or weight (when weight training).
  • Shoes should be comfortable and provide proper support. This is especially important for running and walking to help maintain balance and proper leg alignment.
  • A physical therapist or physician should be consulted to ensure an appropriate exercise regimen is being used, along with proper form and technique.

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