Therapeutic Exercises for Knee Pain

March 7, 2024

woman and man doing exercises for kneeDealing with knee pain can be a frustrating and debilitating experience. Whether you're recovering from an injury or surgery, managing a chronic condition, or simply looking to improve the strength and stability of your knees, therapeutic exercises can play a crucial role in your rehabilitation process. In this article, we'll explore a variety of exercises specifically designed to help reduce knee pain, improve range of motion, and strengthen the muscles that support the knee joint. 

What Exercises Are Best for Knee Pain?

There are many different exercises that can help alleviate knee pain by strengthening the muscles and improving flexibility. Your physical therapist or healthcare provider can help you develop a specific plan for your individual situation, but we have outlined some common exercises below. It is important to note that the length of time or number of repetitions for each exercise should be determined by your comfort and ability level.  

Legs Bent Quad Stretch: This exercise targets the quadriceps (thigh muscles), which play a key role in supporting the knee. It helps improve flexibility and reduce tension around the knee joint.  

  1. Lie on your side with your top leg bent and your bottom leg straight.  
  2. Reach back and grab onto your ankle, gently pulling your heel towards your glutes until you feel a stretch in the front of your thigh.  
  3. Hold for 30 seconds and switch sides.  

Hamstring Stretch: Tight hamstrings can contribute to knee pain by pulling on the muscles surrounding the joint. Regularly performing this stretch can help improve flexibility in the hamstrings, reducing strain on the knees.  

  1. Lie on your back with one leg extended straight up towards the ceiling and the other foot flat on the floor.  
  2. Flex your foot and gently pull on the back of your thigh until you feel a stretch in the back of your leg.  
  3. Hold for 30 seconds and switch legs.  

Straight Leg Raises: This exercise is great for strengthening the muscles around the knee joint, including the quadriceps and hamstrings. Straight leg raises can help improve stability in the knees, reducing pain during daily activities.  

  1. Lie on your back with one leg bent and the other extended straight out in front of you.  
  2. Slowly lift your straight leg up towards the ceiling, keeping it as straight as possible without locking out your knee.  
  3. Lower your leg back down with control and repeat for 10-15 repetitions on each leg.  

Knee Toward Chest Stretch: Gently stretching out the hip flexors can also benefit those dealing with knee pain by relieving tension around the joint area.  

  1. Lie on your back with both legs extended straight out in front of you.  
  2. Bend one knee towards your chest while keeping the other leg flat on the ground.  
  3. Hold onto your shin or behind your thigh and gently pull towards you until you feel a stretch in your hip flexor area.  
  4. Hold for 30 seconds before switching legs.  

Body Weight Squats: Squats are an excellent exercise for strengthening all of the muscles around the knees while improving overall lower body strength and function. Squats are perfect for building strength, stability, and endurance needed to support healthy knees.  

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart.  
  2. Bend at your hips, knees, and ankles, sending your hips back as if you are sitting on a chair.  
  3. Raise your arms forward to help maintain balance.  
  4. Lower your body until your thighs are parallel to floor.  
  5. Return to starting position.  

Calf Raises: This exercise strengthens the calf muscles, which support the knee joint. Stand with your feet hip-width apart.  

  1. Slowly raise your heels off the ground, then lower them back down.  
  2. Repeat 10-15 times. 

Seated Leg Extensions: Leg extensions help improve range of motion and strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee joint, particularly the quadriceps.

  1. Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the ground.
  2. Extend one leg at a time, straightening it out in front of you.
  3. Hold for a few seconds, then lower it back down.
  4. Repeat 10-15 times on each leg. 

How Do You Do Knee Physical Therapy at Home?

If you're unable to attend regular physical therapy sessions, there are plenty of therapeutic exercises you can do at home to support your knee health. It is important to talk to a physical therapist or healthcare professional before beginning at-home knee exercises to ensure you are addressing your individual condition properly and safely. When engaging in knee exercises at home, keep the following tips in mind.  

  • Start with Gentle Stretching: Begin your home therapy session with gentle stretching exercises like the hamstring stretch and quadriceps stretch to warm up your muscles and improve flexibility. 
  • Progress to Strengthening Exercises: After stretching, move on to strengthening exercises like straight leg raises, calf raises, and seated leg extensions. These exercises help build the muscles around the knee joint, providing better support and reducing pain. 
  • Maintain Proper Form: Ensure that you maintain the correct position throughout each exercise to prevent further injury. 
  • Use Props If Needed: If you have difficulty performing any exercise, use props to support your body. Some examples include using a towel or band for the hamstring stretch or a chair for balance during the quadriceps stretch. 
  • Listen to Your Body: If any exercise causes pain, stop immediately and consult with a physical therapist for guidance. 

Can I Cure Knee Pain with Exercise?

While therapeutic exercises can certainly help relieve knee pain and improve overall joint health, it's important to remember that they may not be a cure-all solution for every individual. Depending on the underlying cause of your knee pain—whether it is arthritis, injury-related issues, or other factors—additional treatment options may be necessary for long-term relief. However,  

Therapeutic exercises are a valuable tool for those experiencing knee pain. Gentle stretches along with strengthening exercises can help reduce pain levels while improving overall function in this crucial joint area. Incorporating targeted knee exercises into your daily routine can play a significant role in managing symptoms, preventing further injury, and enhancing mobility in individuals dealing with knee discomfort. 


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