It doesn’t matter whether you’ve sprained a ligament, torn your meniscus, or have developed pain seemingly out of nowhere. If performed correctly, these exercises and pieces of advice will help to improve your biomechanics so that your knees function at their best with as little pain as possible.
Red Flags – If you are experiencing any of these conditions, these exercises may not be suitable for you and you should consult with a health professional.
A Note on Pain
What causes knee pain?
There are many structures around and within the knee that may become stiff, painful, or inflamed. Muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments can all contribute to knee pain, whether it’s caused by trauma, or arises seemingly out of nowhere.
In either case, the painful structure is usually being stressed or overloaded i some way. The best way to improve the health of the knee is to manage the amount of load that these structures are exposed to.
Sometimes, this means resting the knee. Most often though, this involves making sure the knee has enough strength and flexibility, and that it is in a good position to handle the load. Even when you have injured slow-healing structures like ligaments or meniscii, you can still reduce your pain and improve what you can do with the knee by following these steps.
How to improve knee health
There are two main components to improving your knee health:
- reducing the symptoms you currently experience
- addressing imbalances so that you can avoid future injuries
Reducing knee pain and stiffness
Symptoms like knee pain and stiffness can usually be reduced or eliminated temporarily by stretching and activating a few specific muscles in the legs and back.
Perform these exercises as a warm-up before you perform activities that normally bring on your symptoms. You can also perform them after the symptoms have come one to try and reduce them. If you experience symptoms at night or first thing in the morning, try performing stretches just before bed to reduce these.
Note: We don’t recommend performing strengthening exercises right before bed, as intense exertion immediately prior to sleep can lead to poor sleep quality.
This technique involves using a foam roller, ball, or another tool to massage the back, hip, and leg. Instead of focusing on the sore spot, try rolling the back of the thigh, the backside of the knee and calf, and the front of the thigh.
Kneeling Hip Stretch
This exercise is one of the most effective for reducing knee symptoms, but it can be hard to do correctly. Using the right technique is crucial if you want a good result. Check the Common Mistakes section of the exercise guide to make sure you are getting the most out of the exercise.
Kneeling Leg Stretch
Tight hamstrings can be a cause of knee pain, especially if the pain is behind or on outside of the knee. Releasing the back and legs with this stretch will help with pain experienced when the knee is maximally bent.
It may seem unrelated, but tension in the sides of the trunk and lower back can play an important role in knee mechanics. Many people focus exclusively on the legs while stretching, and may miss the source of their knee pain.
While the previous exercises are stretches, this exercise is primarily designed to activate the muscles of the leg and hip. Performing this exercise with proper technique will wake up the muscles that stabilize the knee, leading to a reduction in activity-related symptoms.
How to address the cause of knee pain and reduce the risk of future injury
Light stretches and activation exercises can be effective in reducing symptoms in the short term, but you will need to do more for sustained improvement. This section will help you develop strength in muscles that are often weak while improving the flexibility of others. You will also learn to modify the way you perform activities, like running or climbing stairs, to improve your muscle balance and risk of injury.
Strengthening Your Weak Muscles
The muscles that are most often overlooked when it comes to improving knee health are actually above and below it in the core, hips, ankles, and feet. These muscles can be even more important than those around the knee joint because they determine how much stress ends up going through the knee joint as you use it.
How to Strengthen Your Core and Hips
How to Strengthen Your Feet and Ankles
Modifying Your Activities
Stretching and strengthening your muscles will allow you to use them in new ways. Using your body in a more balanced way will help you improve pain and performance while reducing the risk of developing and injury. Look through our Modifications page to find out how to do things in the best way for your body.
Any questions? We thought so. Take a look at our page of GAQs, and if you don’t find the answer you’re looking for, let us know. We’re happy to answer any questions you might have.
Need some human input?
If you’d like help from a registered physiotherapist, you can get in touch with our clinical team. We can reach out via video call to help you assess, treat, or understand whether these tools are right for you.