Dealing with knee pain and preventing further injury require increasing strength and flexibility.
No pain, no gain. Truth be told, I cringe every time I hear those words. As a trainer who routinely works with people who suffer from joint pain, I see the damage that can come from everyday wear and tear.
For the millions of Americans dealing with this condition, the knee-joint, which is the largest joint in the body, ranks right near the top for enduring the most injuries. And although sports-related knee injuries are quite common, the majority of pain in that area occurs due to the repetitive trauma we put our knees through over time.
Here are a few conditions that I see most commonly:
Bursitis. Numerous fluid-filled sacs called bursa cushion the knee-joint. Repetitive bending or pounding can irritate the bursa, causing pain and swelling.
IT band syndrome. The iliotibial band runs from your hip down to your shin. If its irritated, it can become swollen on the outer side of the knee a condition commonly called runners knee.
Osteoarthritis. This condition is a degeneration of joint cartilage and the underlying bone. It causes frequent pain and stiffness, usually in people over 60.
Tendonitis. Tendons are the tissues that connect your bones and muscles. When these tendons are irritated, they become swollen, inflamed and sore.
Knee pain has caused many exercise enthusiasts to think they can no longer exercise. This is not the casein fact, the best step you can take in dealing with knee pain and preventing further problems is to exercise. Strengthening exercises should include developing stronger muscles in your quadriceps (front of thigh), hamstrings (back of thigh) and hips. Increasing the strength of the muscles that move the knee can help reduce pain and take some of the pressure off the knee-joint.
Here are a few you can try:
Hamstring curls. Face and hold the back of a chair. Lift your foot up toward the back of your thigh at no further than a 90-degree angle. Hold for 5 seconds, lower the leg and repeat 10 times. Add ankle weights to increase resistance.
Straight-leg lifts. While sitting on the floor, keep one leg bent and the other one straight. Lift the straight leg 6 to 10 inches off the floor while tightening your thigh muscles. Hold for five seconds in the air, lower slowly and repeat 10 times. Don’t use any jerking or quick movements, as they can be counterproductive.
Forward leg kicks. Stand with one leg raised with the back of your thigh parallel to the floor and your knee-joint at a 90-degree angle. Slowly kick your raised lower leg forward and return to that position while continuing to keep your leg elevated. This is a good exercise for the quadriceps.
Flexibility is another important aspect of decreasing knee pain, as tight muscles lack mobility. Decreasing range of motion can increase pain in the joints. Always incorporate stretching after your strengthening exercises to reduce muscle soreness and create strong, flexible muscles that will keep your knees healthy and pain-free.
Kevin Buchanek is a personal trainer based in Longview, Texas. Certified with the American Council on Exercise (ACE), he currently works with special-population clients as well as healthy adults to help them achieve their fitness goals. In addition, Kevin has helped individuals recover from work-related injuries, conducted water therapy for patients with a variety of physical conditions, and assisted with cardiac and pulmonary rehab.