Pain relief: The best exercises for bad knees

Jul 07, 2019
It's common for knee pain to originate in other areas in the body. Source: Shutterstock

Sometimes the best solution for knee pain is to stop thinking about the knee in isolation – because the knee is also hugely dependent on other parts of your body.

For example, this might sound odd, but many knee problems originate from the spine. Our spine has a big influence on our knee’s function, range and mobility.

Why is the spine such an issue? Because the spine needs regular movement along three planes, but most people only move along one.

Most people mainly move on the forwards and backwards plane in everyday life. For example, bending forwards is a common movement people do. But it’s important to consider other lateral movements for knee health.

To have the spine moving along its other planes, consider these exercises (note: do not push through pain, only move within tolerable pain levels).

Spinal rotations: Hold your arms straight out in front of you. While keeping them horizontal, swing them around your body from one side to the other – swing them right round as far as they can go without causing you any pain.

Try turning your head in line with your arms as they swing from side to side, which will rotate your spine even further.

Side bends: Technically called the dynamic thoracic side stretch, for this exercise stand up straight with your arms at your side, legs slightly apart. Bring your right arm up so your hand is above your head, then reach your arm over to the left as far as it can go, while leaning to your left at the same time. Your left hand should remain at your side, moving down your thigh as you stretch. Do three or four stretches and then repeat the process on your other side.

For knee health I also suggest you consider balance exercises. Balance is important for conditions like arthritis, because the proprioceptors (balance receptions) in our joints are diminished due to the wear and tear. It’s always important to re-train balance – consider some of these exercises below.

Stand on one foot: Count to 30, then swap to the other foot. You may find one side is less balanced if hampered by degeneration.

Stand on one foot with eyes closed: Taking away one of the senses makes it harder – again, count to 30 and then swap.

Stand on one leg on a folded towel or thick blanket: This makes the ground unsteady, so be careful, but it means your balance receptors need to work harder.

If you’re feeling really confident then stand on one leg on the towel and close your eyes too.

Want to ramp it up a bit?

Stand on one leg, then throw a ball against a wall and catch it while staying on one leg. This is a little harder and is a good functional balance exercise for returning to sport and activity. Start with 30 second increments then try to do it for longer periods.

The following help build some strength around the knee, to provide more support. You may wish to do these while holding onto a chair or wall for stability.

Baby squats: Instead of bending your knees all the way you can just bend a little. Most importantly, make sure this doesn’t cause knee pain.

This is an excellent exercise for the quads, which is key to knee stability. Try and do 20 reps every day.

Calf raises: Have a chair in front of you with its back facing you. Stand up straight, and then stand on tippy toes, holding for two seconds before lowering. I recommend doing 20 reps once a day.

To build up further strength you may consider holding dumbbells, with your arms at your side, while doing the raises.

There are a huge range of problems that can occur with the knee, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

For chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis, or if pain and discomfort persists, it’s recommended you get a proper assessment and treatment.

Do you have knee pain? How do you deal with it?

Important information: The information provided on this website is of a general nature and information purposes only. It does not take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. It is not personalised health advice and must not be relied upon as such. Before making any decisions about your health or changes to medication, diet and exercise routines you should determine whether the information is appropriate in terms of your particular circumstances and seek advice from a medical professional.

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