With the cooler weather right around the corner, we all feel invigorated to be outside and active. For some of us, that means we will either start walking for exercise or maybe even increase our current walking distance. This time of year, I see patients who ramp up their activity and end up developing knee pain. A common question I am asked is, “What are the best exercises to stop knee pain?” Below are the top 5 exercises/suggestions to stop your knee pain:
My first suggestion to avoid knee pain is to ease into your new healthy habits. The American Heart Association recommends that we do some form of moderate intensity physical activity for 30 minutes a day 5 days a week. If you are not currently hitting that goal and you want to move in a positive direction, I say go for it! However, don’t try to go from zero to hero. A good rule of thumb is that you should not increase your weekly mileage by more than 10-15%.
My second suggestion to avoid knee pain is to listen to your body. With walking and some other repetitive activities our bodies are not attuned to the forces that are being placed on it. For that reason, overuse injuries are prevalent in runners and walkers. Your bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscles can develop pain as a mechanism that your body uses to tell you to stop or slow down. Your body is smart; it will give you signs that it does not like what you are doing. If you listen to those signs you can often avoid common overuse injuries.
My third suggestion to avoid knee pain is to strengthen your hip muscles. There is quite a bit of research that shows that strengthening the gluteal muscles, namely the gluteus medius muscle, can have effects on the knee. The gluteus medius muscle helps to control the movement of the femur. This is the long bone in your thigh that makes up the top of the knee joint. Control of rotation of the femur from the glute medius can reduce the force that is happening at the knee with walking and running. I can give you a great exercise to strengthen the gluteus medius, but you have to shoot me an e-mail at [email protected] and I will send it to you!
My fourth suggestion to avoid knee pain is to strengthen your quadricep muscles. This can be a tricky suggestion because there are certain movements that may cause some pain when you try to do them even though you know they are strengthening your legs. The expectation to have all exercise be pain free is not realistic, but there is a certain acceptable amount of pain that is not damaging. That is a concept that is important to reiterate. Certain tendon issues do cause pain when you load the irritated tendon (part of the muscle that attaches to the bone). Loading of our muscles helps to remodel them to become stronger so that they can withstand the stress we are placing on them. If the muscle can absorb the shock then other structures in your knee will not be as stressed.
My fifth and final suggestion to avoid knee pain is have a skilled medical provider look at your body as a whole! The concept of regional interdependence that I have discussed many times, is critical to find and address the root causes of your knee pain. Have you had a prior ankle injury that never healed? Are your hips stiffer than they should be? These are just 2 factors that I have found that cause the knee to be under more stress. If those issues are not addressed you can take all the medications you want, but you are just masking the pain and not addressing the root cause of your issues.
I hope these 5 tips/suggestions are useful to you. If you try them, but are finding that you are just not getting rid of your knee pain and need a closer look, please take advantage of my free Discovery Visit. It is a free 30 minute visit with me where we can both determine if physical therapy is the right course of action to help you with your knee pain. Where else can you get high level medical advice that really makes a difference in your life before you even pay a dime? Here at Pinnacle Physical Therapy, that is just one way we help our patients reach their Pinnacle.
Dr. Brian Murphy