The Ultimate Exercise Guide for Knee Pain
50% of visits to sport doctors are due to knee injuries. Research shows that exercise after a knee injury is critical for safe, efficient and effective recovery. Below is a list of ten exercises that work on the muscles that support the knee joint. (Please make sure you check with your physiotherapist before starting these exercises, and don’t do any which increase symptoms or pain!)
1. Quadriceps Stretch: These are the muscles at the front of your thigh. Stand and pull your ankle up behind you towards your bottom, you should feel a pull in the front of your leg. Hold for at least 30+ seconds, and repeat three times.
2. Hamstring Stretch: Your hamstring is the muscle at the back of your leg. To stretch the hamstring, stand with the foot of your injured leg propped up on a stair. Slightly bend forward from the hips, while keeping your back straight. You should feel a pull in the back of your leg. Hold this stretch for 30+ seconds and repeat three times.
3. Kick Backs: Stand up straight and hold onto the back of a chair. Lift your foot up as far as you can towards your bottom, bending the knee. Hold for 3-5 seconds. Try doing 10-15 reps twice a day. Be sure to keep your upper body upright. To progress this exercise you can add ankle weights to the working leg.
4. Bridging: This exercises is great to strengthen your hamstrings, glutes and quads. Begin by lying on your back with both knees bent about 90° and your feet flat on the floor. Clench your buttock and lift your bottom off the bed as high as you can without arching your back. Hold for 3-5 seconds and slowly lower. Repeat 10- 15 times. To progress this exercise, try extending one leg while your bottom is lifted off the bed.
5. Clam Shell: Strengthening the gluteus muscles is imperative for anyone with knee pain. For this exercise, Lie on your side with your hip and knees bent approximately 90°, with your feet together. Lift your top knee away from your bottom knee as far as possible, while keeping your feet together. Perform this movement in a slow and controlled manner, and repeat 10-15 times.
6. One Leg Stance: Balancing on your injured knee will help strengthen the stabilizers of the knee and will help increase your proprioception. This is an easy exercise, simply stand on your injured leg and balance there for 2 minutes, twice a day. To progress this exercise try closing your eyes, or tossing a ball up in the air, or standing on a pillow/uneven surface.
7. Calf Raise: This exercise is to strengthen the muscles at the back of your leg below your knee. Stand holding onto the back of a chair. Slowly rise up onto your tiptoes, and then lower back to standing. Repeat this 20 times. To progress this exercise you can hold light weights, do it on one leg, or perform the exercise on a stair with your heels hanging off the edge.
8. Squats against the wall: This exercise is great to strengthen all the muscles of the lower extremity. Stand with your back against the wall, and your feet slightly away. Bend your knees and lower into a squat position, like you are sitting in a chair. Then straighten your legs and return to your starting position. Try this exercise 10 times and then take a break. To progress this exercise, try holding your squat for longer, and squatting deeper.
9. Lunges: This is a more advanced exercise. Stand straight with both feet facing forward. Step forward with your injured leg, and drop your back knee. Make sure your front knee does not go over your toes. Your upper body should be upright. Then push off your front foot and return to standing. Repeat 10 times on each leg. To make this exercise more challenging try holding light weights.
10. Bend and Reach: Stand on your injured leg and slowly reach down to the floor while extending your other leg behind you. You should hinge forward at the hips. Then return to upright. Try this 10 times on each leg. To progress this exercise, place objects on the floor around you that you need to touch, or keep your stance leg bent.
By Charlotte Anderson
Registered Physiotherapist, PhD
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