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 to decrease pain and make everyday activities easier.
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.
In this section, you will find a whole range of tailored programmes for all causes of knee problems, as well as loads of great advice on how to exercise safely and my top tips on getting the best results.
There is something here for everyone. We will also look more at how exercises for knee pain help and why people should do them, rather than relying on medications. 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.
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. You can choose from general rehab programmes, stretches, strengthening exercises or tailored programmes for specific knee conditions.
If you don’t know where to start, I suggest trying the beginners set first and progress on from there.
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.
Here you will find graded strengthening programmes to work through. Each set targets the different sets of leg muscles that control the knee - the quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves and kneecap muscles. There is:
1) Beginners Strengthening Programme: This is the place to start. Simple but effective exercises to get those muscles going without any risk of overworking or damaging the knee
2) Intermediate Strengthening Programme: Once you have started to regain some strength and confidence, you can progress on to the next stage to further strengthen the muscles. These can all be done in your own home without any need for specialist equipment
3) Advanced Strengthening Programme: This is the final piece of the puzzle. It will enable you to regain full strength and function so you can return to your usual activities as well as prevent the original problem from flaring up again
4) Knee Cap Strengthening: These exercises target the small muscles around the kneecap, called the VMO. They are vital for controlling the movement of the patella. Weakness in these muscles is a common cause of anterior knee pain
5) Hamstring Strengthening Exercises: These exercises specifically target the hamstring muscles on the back of the thigh, which are often overlooked. They not only improve strength and endurance but can reduce the risk of injury
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.
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:
1) Quads Stretches: for the muscles on the front of the thigh
2) Hamstring Stretches: for the muscles on the back of the thigh
3) Glutes Stretches: for the buttock muscles
4) Iliotibial Band (ITB) Stretches: for the band on the outer thigh
5) Calf Stretches: for the muscles on the back of the leg below the knee
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.
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 start with the beginners programme and then once you are happy with those, progress on to the intermediate level and finally the advanced programme. There are easy to follow instructions with videos and photos to help you get the most from these exercises for knee pain.
Here you can choose from specific programmes for the following conditions:
Arthritis: Wear and tear of the knee joint and cartilage
Bakers Cyst: Inflammation of the popliteal bursa behind the knee
Housemaids Knee: Inflammation of the prepatellar bursa in front of the kneecap
Meniscus Tears: Damage to the special cartilage lining the joint and
Osgood Schlatters Disease: damage to the bone just below the kneecap usually after a rapid growth spurt
Knee Replacements: Exercises to do before and after surgery to improve recovery
ACL Reconstruction Rehab: Exercise program following ACL reconstruction surgery
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.
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:
1) Tightness: which limits how much the leg can move and
2) 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:
1) More weight goes through certain parts of the knee than should do
2) 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
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.
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!
Choose from one the exercises for knee pain plans above to get you started, and aim to do a little bit each day.
If you are not sure what is actually wrong with your knee, visit the diagnosis section for help working out what is causing your pain and what you can do to make it better.
Go to Knee Pain Guide