Exercises for Knee Pain

Written By: Chloe Wilson, BSc(Hons) Physiotherapy
Reviewed by: KPE Medical Review Board

The best exercises for knee pain

Do exercises for knee pain really make a difference? The answer is a resounding yes! 

There are a huge number of different causes of knee pain, but in virtually every case exercises will really help.

Improving the strength and flexibility of the leg muscles changes the support around the knee and how the forces travel through the joint. Better support and better weight distribution helps to reduce pain and improve function.

It is easy to get disheartened when you have pain and to think that it's never going to get better, but that is very rarely true. So take control of things today and get back to doing what you love.

Choosing Exercises For Knee Pain

There are a huge range of exercises for knee pain to choose from and here I share with you my favourites. I have over a decades experience as a physiotherapist and here I share with you the ones that I've found work best.

There is something here for everyone. Not only will you find a whole range of tailored programmes for all causes of knee problems, there's also loads of great advice on how to exercise safely and my top tips on getting the best results

Each of these exercises for knee pain comes with easy to follow instructions including videos and pictures so you know you are doing them correctly.  

If you don’t know where to start, I suggest trying the beginners set first and progress on from there. 

1. Knee Strengthening Exercises

Strengthening exercises for knee pain are an essential part of rehab for almost every single knee problem.  Muscles start losing their strength really quickly after an injury or episode of knee pain which frequently exacerbates the problem and lengthens the recovery period.

Exercises for Knee Pain - Beat knee pain fast

Unfortunately, it takes much longer to increase muscle strength than it does to lose it. That means it is really important to start strengthening exercises for knee pain as soon as possible.

Even if your knee is feeling sore, there are some really simple strengthening exercises you can do without having to move the knee that can make a big difference to recovery.

2. Leg Stretches

Knee stretches.  Approved use by www.HEP2go.com

Tight muscles are a common cause of leg pain. When there is tightness, it increases the tension on the knee, affects how it moves and how forces go through the joint. 

Stretching exercises for knee pain can make a big difference.  In the knee stretches section, you can find out the best way to stretch safely and effectively - how to get the maximum benefit for the minimum effort! 

You will also find simple tests that you can do at home to see if your muscles are indeed tight.

Alternatively, if you know what muscle group you want to stretch, go directly to stretches for that specific group:

3. General Programmes

This is a great place to start whether you are recovering from an injury or surgery or have been getting niggles of pain and weakness.

General Exercises for knee pain can make a big difference.  Approved use by www.hep2go.co

You will find three different programmes of exercises for knee pain each incorporating strengthening and stretching for each group of knee muscles as well as, balance and control work. They are suitable for most knee problems.

You can choose from:

There are easy to follow instructions with videos and photos to help you get the most from these exercises for knee pain.

4. Exercises for Specific Conditions

Here you can choose from specific programmes for the following conditions:

Exercises for specific knee conditions such as a Bakers Cyst.

If your problem is not listed here, don't worry.  It just means that the general programmes of exercises for knee pain above should be suitable for you.

One of the most important things when treating pain is to know what is causing the problem so it is really important to see your doctor for an accurate diagnosis. Then you can start on a tailored rehab programme specific to your condition.  If you are unsure what is causing your pain, visit the knee pain diagnosis section.

How Do Exercises For Knee Pain Help?

Exercises for knee pain can help to prevent injuries and speed up recovery. To work properly, the leg needs three things, strength (power and endurance), movement (joint range and muscle length) and stability (control, balance and proprioception). Lack of any of them can cause problems and pain.

Any knee injury/problem will almost certainly affect the leg muscles. The main problems that develop are:

  • Tightness: which limits how much the leg can move and
  • Weakness: which limits either the instantaneous strength of the muscle or the endurance (how long the muscle can work for)

Tightness and weakness leads to muscle imbalance where some muscles don’t work hard enough and others try to work extra hard to compensate. When this happens, subtle changes take place in the way force and weight goes through the joint, meaning that:

Exercises for knee pain can help in most situations
  • More weight goes through certain parts of the knee than should do
  • The knee moves in a way it is not designed to putting more pressure on the ligaments and cartilage

The result of both of these is pain, and an increased risk of injury. Exercises for knee pain help to combat that. All of these knee rehab plans are designed to increase the strength and flexibility of your muscles and to improve balance and proprioception. This will help:

  1. Reduce pain and swelling
  2. Ensure a full recovery from an injury
  3. Prevent knee problems developing or recurring

Getting The Best Results

When doing exercises for knee pain, it is vital that you are working at the right level for your problem. If you overwork an injured knee, you could cause more damage. But if you don’t work it hard enough, you won’t build up much strength or mobility. See the exercise overview for guidance on how hard to push yourself.

I find one of the biggest barriers to regularly doing exercises for knee pain is motivation. People usually start with great intentions but after a few weeks, they get a bit bored, and stop, particularly if the pain has started to improve.

Visit the Getting the Best Results section for my top tips on how to stay motivated, how to progress your exercises for knee pain and how to ensure success! It usually takes a good few weeks to notice much change as muscles gain strength much more slowly than they lose it unfortunately. Perseverance is key!

Related Article: Resistance Bands vs Weights >

What Next?

Choose from one the exercises for knee pain plans above to get you started, and aim to do a little bit each day. In most cases, you will want to do a combination of stretching and strengthening exercises for knee pain.

Page Last Updated: 16/01/23
Next Review Due: 16/01/25

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