The Best Exercises for Knee Pain

The Best Exercises for Knee Pain

We recommend exercises for knee pain for those who are experiencing pain in the knee joint due to overuse or wear and tear. By gently exercising the joint, it is possible to reduce some of the pain associated with bad knees. It can also improve your overall fitness.

What Causes Knee Pain?

Knee pain is a widespread form of joint pain that is experienced by people of every age. Knee pain can be the result of an injury or can merely be from overuse. The knee is a part of the body tasked with bearing the whole weight of your body while you move. And over time, problems can arise.

Tendons, muscle, and bones are all parts of the knee that can be damaged. However, it’s most common for there to be damage to the cartilage within the knee joint itself. The cartilage in the knee is called the menisci, and it provides cushioning between the two bones that meet inside the knee joint.

There are also some sacs located in the knee joint that contain fluid. These sacs are called bursae, and they also act as cushioning so that the knee joint moves smoothly. When any part of the knee joint is damaged, you may feel pain or discomfort, and you should see your doctor for treatment.

Many things can cause knee pain, and frequently wear and tear over time, injury, or misalignment are part of the cause. You can reduce a certain amount of knee pain by doing specific exercises. But how much largely depends on the cause of the knee pain.

Stretches for Knee Pain

After speaking with your doctor, they may recommend that you use stretching as a way to help reduce your knee pain. While there are many different kinds of stretches to do, these are the four we recommend starting with that require very little equipment to get started.

Calf Stretch

Tight calves can cause you to lean forward in such a way that your knees may become uncomfortable. To stretch them, find a curb, or step and place the front half of your foot on the surface.

Allow your heel the lower below the surface your foot is resting on and hold it there for thirty seconds. Repeat with the other foot. If you decide to do both feet at once, be sure to hold on to something to prevent falling.

Hamstring Stretch

For the hamstring stretch, you’ll need an exercise band or something to wrap around your foot. For this stretch, you’ll also be laying on your back to stabilize your spine and ensure your hamstrings get correctly stretched.

Lay on your back next to a doorway so that one leg is vertical and leaning against the wall. Your other leg is straight in front of you and laying on the floor. Make sure to keep your vertical leg bent slightly at the knee and use the band looped around your foot to pull towards you slowly.

You should feel more stretching the more you pull on the strap. Hold this pose for ten or fifteen seconds and then switch to the other leg. Some people find a belt to be ideal for this stretch. But a yoga strap or exercise band works just as well.

Glute Stretch

The glute stretch is another one performed while laying down on your back. By stretching the glutes, which are one of the muscles that hold the hips in place, it can have a positive impact on the knees as well.

Once you are laying on the floor with your feet flat and knees bent, place your right ankle over the left knee. Clasp your hands together behind your thigh. And then slowly pull your left knee to your chest. Switch to the other leg and repeat.

Hip Flexor and Quad Stretch

Pain can make stretching difficult. So some stretches may need to be performed in different positions such as this one. Lie on your stomach and loop a yoga strap or belt around your right foot by bending your leg at the knee and raising in the direction of your butt.

Use both hands to pull on the strap and increase the stretching you feel in the thigh and hip area and hold for thirty seconds. Switch to the other foot and repeat.

Traditionally, this exercise is done standing up, but painful knees can make that difficult. If you aren’t comfortable pulling firmly on the strap, try pulling more gently and taking extra time to allow your muscles to relax and stretch before holding the pose.

Exercises for Knee Pain

There are many exercises for knee pain that are successful in reducing pain and increasing the mobility of the joint. Once you have confirmed with your doctor that training is the right treatment for you, consider some of these exercises for knee pain reduction.

Exercise can also help reduce the appearance of “fat knees,” and can address the “no butt” issue, which is another common complaint.


Walking can strengthen the lower body and also improve the health of the cartilage found in the knee joint. Consider walking three times per week for 30-60 minutes for each session. If you are feeling particularly energetic, four times per week is acceptable, but keep each session under two hours.

Building Muscles

Biking, Tai chi, stretches, yoga, swimming, and other low impact exercises can help you build up the muscles around the knee. This can help to reduce knee pain. The important muscles you’ll want to focus on are the quadriceps, as well as the hamstrings. And be sure to increase your exercise gradually to prevent further injury.

Proper Form

Proper form when exercising is crucial to avoid injury and increased pain. When doing low impact exercises, or aerobic activities, be sure that you are using proper form that keeps the knees behind where your toes are. If your knees are allowed to wander beyond your toes, more pressure ends up on the kneecap. And then your chances of injury are much more significant.

Working Out at The Gym

If you have bad knees, you may be worried about going to the gym and possibly making them more sore or uncomfortable. However, getting proper exercise can prevent “problem areas” commonly complained about, such as fat knees or having no butt.


The Elliptical machine may feel strange at first. But it’s a great low-impact option that also provides a solid aerobic workout. It’s relatively easy on the knees, but you should be careful not to over-do it and increase your time on this machine gradually.

When using the machine, make sure to use proper posture and don’t put too much of your weight on the handles. If you have poor posture or put excess pressure on the handles, it could make bad knees worse.

Certain kinds of knee problems, such as degenerative conditions, may be aggravated by using the Elliptical machine. So it’s a good idea to check with your physician first.

Stationary Bike

A stationary bike can be an excellent alternative to other machines if you have specific kinds of knee pain or knee injuries. If it is difficult for you to walk for more extended periods, ask a doctor if spending time on a stationary bike can help improve the condition of your bad knees.

Stationary bikes are a good exercise for knee pain because it takes some of the weight off of your knees. And it doesn’t require balance like standard bikes. For those who are overweight, or have arthritis, they make stationary bikes with chairs that can be more comfortable and reduce the strain on your back.


When used correctly, a treadmill may be a good choice for some with bad knees. As an exercise for knee pain, walking is relatively low-impact and helps to strengthen critical muscles. Walking on the treadmill also offers aerobic exercise and strengthens bones.

It’s important not to run on a treadmill if you have bad knees as this can be high-impact and result in more pain than improvement. High impact exercises can be hard on your joints. And you should consult with your physician before engaging in them.

What to Avoid If You Have Knee Pain

If you are suffering from knee pain, there are movements that you’ll want to avoid if possible. While many of these will be easy to avoid, others may be more difficult for some with, particularly active lifestyles.

Deep bending

Squats are a favorite exercise of weightlifters and those looking to tone their legs and glutes. However, more than thirty minutes of squats per day can damage the cartilage in the knee and potentially lead to osteoarthritis.

High Impact Exercise

Running is a common form of high impact exercise that can strengthen the lower body and also improve cardiovascular health. However, running and other types of high impact exercise, including running on the treadmill, can cause knee pain and potentially osteoarthritis later on.

Instead of running, consider walking at least three times per week for 30 minutes to 2 hours each day.

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