Phyx Your Knees

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.

Inability to take four steps due to knee pain (limping is allowed)

Inability to bend the knee to ninety degrees

Experiencing unexplained weight loss

Experiencing fever or illness that is associated with the knee pain

A Note on Pain

While there are many biomechanical factors we can address to improve pain, such as strength and flexibility, pain ultimately occurs in the brain. Factors that affect the brain like your emotional state, stress, sleep, immune function, and nutrition play a role in how you experience pain. Addressing these factors is just as important and making sure your muscles and joints are healthy.

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.

Myofascial Release

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.

Banana Stretch

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.

Roll Down

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

This is one of the most important things you can do to improve your health. This area is your center of gravity and the connection between your lower and upper body. The improvement here helps problems almost anywhere in the body. Only, most people aren’t using this area correctly.

The problem that most people face is the inability to control the position of the lower back and pelvis. This may not even be something you’ve thought about before. Learning to control this area is the first step to building strength in the core and hips, and improving your musculoskeletal health.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

One of the most important core muscles is often overlooked: the diaphragm. If we engage the diaphragm first, the other core muscles are much easier to turn on.

Drawing In

Once the diaphragm is active, we can practice turning on the muscles of the lower core and pelvic floor. These muscles are often overlooked in exercises targeting the core, and becoming familiar with them is essential for complete strength.

Supne Pelvic Tilt

Once you can Draw In your lower core and pelvic floor muscles, we can practice using them to help control the position of the lower back and hips.

Seated Pelvic Tilt

Now that you can control the position of the lower back and hips in the supine position, try it while sitting. This exercise will also teach you the best sitting posture, which you are probably not currently using.

Standing Pelvic Tilt

Controlling the lower back and hips when standing is the most difficult, yet most important step to improving core and hip strength. Once you master this fundamental skill, you can do any activity more effectively.

Wall Squat

Excellent. Now we can really start to challenge the muscles of the hip and core with some single-leg squats. Make sure to avoid the Common Mistakes on this one. if you’re unable to do this exercise, try working your way up from the Clam instead.

Stationary Lunge

Now that you’ve started to work the core and hip muscles, progress to an exercise that will challenge your balance, alignment, and leg strength.

Reverse Lunge

You’ve challenged most of the muscles around the hip and core. This exercise adds movement, to improve your ability to use them in dynamic activities.

How to Strengthen Your Feet and Ankles

The strength and stability of your feet and ankles play a large part in how shock is absorbed by your body. Most of us spend little time in bare feet and do most of our walking over flat, even surfaces. This can lead to deconditioning of the muscles in the feet and ankles that help maintain good biomechanics. The following exercises will help rebuild these muscles and improve your joint health.

ABCs

Firstly, you need to become familiar with the entire range of movement of the ankle and foot. Just like with language, you will start with the ABCs.

Big Toe Flexion/Extension

Now that your ankle is warm, you can start to control the toes. The muscles that control the big toe are incredibly important for maintaining the shape of the foot as we walk, which in turn influences the rest of the leg. Despite its importance, most people cannot use this muscle effectively.

Banded Inversion/Eversion

Now you are going to challenge the muscles that you warmed up with the ABCs with more resistance. This will improve ankle stability and foot shape.

Heel Raises

Start using your newfound foot and ankle control in a more functional way. Use this exercise to stretch and strengthen the calves and feet with a higher load.

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.

FAQs

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.