There's no need to be in pain
Brendan Rolfe, DipA, PTS, NWS
Runner's Knee. Arthritis. Bursitis. You don't have to be an elite athlete to be affected by knee pain. Although debilitating, certain exercise techniques can provide welcome relief from this common complaint. Learn more about injury prevention and treatment to keep your most precious joints moving smoothly.
Forget the human condition—knee pain is the one unifying force that most of us have experienced on some level. A sprain, a twist, a dislocation, a bruise; certain acute injuries are unavoidable. Many chronic injuries are avoidable, however, but there’s no need to put up with persistent pain.
If you’ve ever been injured, chances are you’ve heard of rehabilitation or rehab: repairing and strengthening an injured muscle, joint, or bone, and nursing it back to health. For a few decades now, athletic trainers and strength and condition coaches of elite-level athletes have been employing something called “prehab.”
Prehab exercises strengthen and stretch the muscles that support the joints in an effort to avoid injury altogether. You may not be a professional athlete, but your legs are the key to your mobility, and your knee health is paramount to an active, healthy lifestyle.
How many times have sore knees or the threat of pain stopped you from participating? You wake up, they’re sore. You go to sleep, they’re sore. You sit, you stand, they’re sore—but they don’t have to be. Many knee problems are caused by weakness or tightness in surrounding muscles, which means they can be fixed. Other problems, such as bursitis (inflamed fluid-filled pads at the joint) and tendinitis (inflamed tendons from overuse) can be healed with sufficient rest and inflammation control through the use of ice and anti-inflammatories.
If you suffer from tendinitis, osteoarthritis, or patellofemoral pain syndrome (characterized by a dull ache under the kneecap when squatting or walking down stairs), avoid exercises or activities that involve jumping, hopping, running, or sporadic and random lateral movement. Instead, opt for low-impact activities on predictable surfaces.
To properly rehabilitate your knees, you will experience some discomfort when doing exercises. Make sure to have a good warm-up, such as a five- or 10-minute walk, to get synovial fluid flowing in your joints, and perform all exercises with control and appropriate resistance. Afterward apply ice to reduce swelling.
If you’ve spent a lifetime abusing your knees, you may be looking for a little added support. While surgery and expensive braces may ultimately be the answer, it’s possible that supplements may help alleviate some discomfort. Visit your local health and nutrition store or a natural health practitioner for recommendations.
When talking about knee strengthening exercises and muscles that affect knee movement health, the focus is on the four muscles of the quadriceps:
|sartorius||runs across the thigh, from the outside of the hip to the inside of the knee||kicking a soccer ball with the inside of the foot|
|vastus intermedius||muscle in the top middle of the thigh||walking|
|vastus lateralis||big muscle on the outside of the thigh||getting up from a squat position|
|vastus medialis||big muscle on the inside of the thigh||walking|
Need to succeed Whether you’re hoping to avoid future knee injuries or currently suffer from knee pain and want to be rid of it, consistently performing the following exercises should start to provide noticeable relief. Complete 3 sets of each exercise for 20 repetitions, or as directed. This circuit may be done at home and is performed every other day to allow muscles to recover. It’s best to do this workout wearing shorts or clothing that lets you see your leg muscles clearly.
Muscles targeted: vastus medialis, gluteus medius, gluteus maximus, gastrocnemius
Neuromuscular FacilitationMuscles targeted: vastus medialis
Note: it is important to contract your inner thigh muscle before your outer thigh muscle, as this exercise trains the timing of muscular activation.
Muscles targeted: vastus medialis, vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius, sartorius, gluteus medius
Note: to adjust difficulty, raise or lower seat height.
Muscles targeted: vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius, sartorius
Progression: stand farther from the door to increase the tension.
Muscles targeted: vastus medialis, vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius
Progression: add weight by holding a dumbbell at your chest.
Muscles targeted: tensor fasciae latae, iliotibial band (IT band), sartorius