Strengthening Exercises to Reduce Knee Pain

The knee joint is one of the largest most complex joints in the body. It is constructed of four bones and an extensive network of ligaments and muscles (Physiopedia, 2023). It is a complex joint that works both in stability and mobility. The ligaments and muscles provide stability to your knee joint which is required for weight bearing and support. The muscles surrounding the knee also work antagonistically (as one muscle contracts, the other muscle relaxes or lengthens) to allow for flexion and extension.

Knee injuries are a very common injury to sustain, with an injury to the ACL being the most prevalent. The ACL is a ligament that helps stabilize the knee joint. It has been recorded that there are approximately 300,000 ACL injuries a year (Sports Surgery Clinic, 2022). Other common knee injuries that can occur are knee contusions, PCL & MCL injuries, and knee dislocations.

Any factor that alters the normal movement of the knee joint can cause pain in the region.

What are some obvious causes for knee pain?

– Degenerative joint diseases
– Ligament tear
– Meniscal tear
– Muscle strain
– Quads weakness
– Recent surgery

Whether you’re an active sports player or a sedentary person, the knee joint may become damaged for various reasons. Once the knee is injured, it will need rest. A knee brace may help reduce pain as it supports all the structures surrounding your knee joint, shares the load of your knee, and avoids excessive movements of the knee joint, all of which are key measures for fast healing.

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After resting for a period, you must restrengthen the knee joint as the muscles will have weakened during the rest period. The following strengthening exercises improve your knee’s function and strengthen the static and dynamic components of your knee joint.

Research has proven that muscle strengthening can reduce knee pain and improve functional mobility of the joint.

1. Knee extension with resistance bands:

Strengthening your knee with extension movements improves the power of your quads. These muscles located in front of your thigh help your knee to remain straight while standing.

To strengthen the muscle,

– take a resistance band and tie it to a fixed point like a pole, hook in a loop, or even a door handle
– Put the loop around your ankle while your knee is flexed and stand facing away from the fixed point at a distance, so the resistance band is taut
– Slowly extend your knee by bringing your foot forward, so that your thigh feels the resistance

2. Hamstring curls with resistance bands:

Knee flexion movement against resistance strengthens your hamstring muscle located at the back of your thigh.

You can perform this exercise by following these steps.

– Take a resistance band and attach it to a fixed point like a pole or door handle
– Put the loop around your ankle while your knee is straight and stand facing toward the fixed point at a distance when the resistance band is taut
– Slowly flex your knee by drawing your foot backward, so that your hamstrings feel the resistance.

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3. Resisted flexion of the foot

Your calf muscles’ strength can be increased with resisted flexion of the foot. There are two ways to perform this exercise.

– One is by doing heel raises. This is where you stand up on to your toes, hold for 1 second and then come back down. This is repeated multiple times.
– Another option is to place a resistance band around both feet, and, while in a sitting position on the ground, flex your feet toward the ground to be parallel with the body, and then flex back up pointing to the sky. With the resistance band being taut the entire time, the calf muscle will strengthen.

4. Knee abduction exercise with resistance bands:

Abduction is the movement when you swing your legs outwards. By doing this with a resistance band, you can strengthen the muscle in your glutes, further adding strength to the knee joint.

– For this, you need to lie on your side on an exercise mat
– Place a looped resistance band around your thighs, just above the knee joint
– Keep the leg on the ground close to the ground in a fixed position
– Lift the other leg upwards toward the sky, to the point where you feel resistance from the band.

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5. Wall squats:

For this move

– stand with your back against a wall and your feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart

– Slowly lower your body while keeping your back straight against the wall and bending at your knees and hips.

Add a looped resistance band around your thighs just above the knee to add more resistance and make the exercise more challenging.

All these exercises work best if you prepare your body with a prior warm-up. Warming up your muscle before strengthening can prevent fatigue, improve healing, and increase the muscle reaction to the strengthening. You can simply do gentle stretches, deep breathing, and some walking as a warmup for your knee strength training.