Exercises for the painful knee
A number of factors can contribute to knee pain. Your doctor will be able to tell you which one may be the culprit. Knee pain is a very common problem among recreational athletes and is usually due to overuse. Patellofemoral syndrome is the most common type of chronic injury. It is caused by an irritation of the undersurface of the knee cap. Overuse pain can result from the pounding shocks absorbed during jogging, hiking, or downhill running. Knock-knees can cause pain, as can flatfeet. Previous injury to the knee or weakness of the front and inner thigh muscles are sometimes responsible.
Treatment usually consists of reducing the inflammation with rest, medicines (like ibuprofen and Naprosyn), and ice. Exercises that help strengthen the knee are also essential.
To ensure your permanent return to normal daily activities, perform both stretching and strengthening exercises every day. Swimming is particularly good for knee problems. Initially you may want to try some of the following exercises in the water to relieve strain and discomfort until your muscles heal. When you stretch, do so slowly without bouncing, and don't wait until you feel pain to stop. Moderate stretching is all you need.
- Standing quadriceps stretch: Stand with your back straight, and bend one knee enough that you can reach down and grasp your foot (see illustration 1). Pull the foot back until you feel your thigh muscle stretch moderately. Push downward and backward with your foot. Hold for 15 seconds and relax. If you feel pain, stop. Repeat five times.
- Straight leg raises: Lie on your back on a bed with your legs out straight. Holding onto the bed frame, lift one leg slowly off the bed as high as possible (see illustration 2). Slowly lower the leg to the bed, keeping the knee straight. Repeat five times.
- Progressive resistance exercise: Sit on a high table or bench with your legs dangling. Suspend a weight from your foot (see illustration 3). Begin with 2-5 pounds, depending on your physical condition. Lift the weight upward, fully extending the knee, and hold the load momentarily. Then slowly lower the leg until the knee is again bent 90 degrees. Repeat five times. Gradually increase both the weight and the number of repetitions.
- Sitting quadriceps exercise: Now sit on a flat surface with your legs out straight. Put a pillow or a firm towel roll under the knee (see illustration 4). Tighten the knee slowly by lifting your foot from the floor and pointing your toes up toward your body. Hold for about two seconds. Repeat five times.
- T resistance exercise: Sit on the floor with a two-pound ankle weight wrapped around your lower leg, as shown (see illustration 5). Lock your knee and raise your leg 12 inches from the floor. Draw a T in the air with your foot. Repeat five times. Gradually increase the weight as the exercise becomes easier.
- Knee bends: Stand straight, holding onto a table with both hands. Squat so that your knees bend to 90 degrees. Repeat five times.
- Knee flexion and extension: Lie on your back with your affected knee bent, the foot flat on the floor (see illustration 6). Slide your heel upward toward the buttocks. Hold the stretch for five seconds. Repeat five times.
Use your judgment. When your knee hurts, avoid sports that may aggravate knee problems. Total rest may be necessary. When your knee gets better after treatment and continued exercise, you should be able to enjoy the activities you participated in before the injury.