With an increasingly active adult population, it’s no surprise that more and more of my patients are complaining of knee pain. The popularity of running, hiking, and biking are on the rise, and our knees are paying the price. Arguably our most overused joint, constant bending, twisting, and straining of our knees can result in inflammation and damage to the tissues surrounding them. So how can we prevent this damage? Certainly if active lifestyles are healthy, there must be a way to maintain them without stressing our knees…
The solution is actually simpler than you’d expect! By stretching and strengthening specific muscle groups that surround and support the knee, you can easily manage and help prevent knee pain caused by the overuse of an active lifestyle. Here are a few stretches that can help alleviate that annoying knee pain. These target the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves to give your knees strength and support from all angles.
Lying Hamstring Stretch: To begin, lie on your back with both legs parallel to the floor. Leaving your left leg on the ground, bend and lift your right knee until both hands can grasp behind it. Straighten your right leg as much as is comfortable, while gently pulling it towards your chest with your arms. (If you’re having trouble reaching your leg, try placing a towel around your leg and pulling that instead. Alternatively, if you’re more flexible, try grasping your calf or ankle.) Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and repeat on the left.
Lying Quad Stretch: Rolling onto your left side, lie with your shoulders, hips, and knees in a straight line (your hips, knees, and ankles should all stack nicely on top of each other). Grasp your right foot or ankle and pull your heel towards your bottom. You should feel a strong stretch in the front of your thigh and at the top of your knee. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and repeat on the left side.
Standing Calf Stretch: Standing about two feet in front of a wall, place your feet shoulder-width apart. Keeping your legs straight, and your hips in line with your shoulders, lean forward until your hands reach the wall at the height of your shoulders. Almost as if you’re doing a push up, bend your elbows and lean your hips and shoulders towards the wall. If your heels remain flat on the ground, you should feel a stretch throughout your calves and the back of your knees. Hold this position for about 30 seconds before gently pushing yourself up and away from the wall.
Along with these stretches, ice and elevation can help ease tired and painful knee joints. Taking a break from any aggravating activity such as squatting, climbing, or speed walking, will also help your knees recover. A combination of rest, ice, and stretching can resolve most minor knee pain, but if your pain still persists after several days, you should consult your Orthopaedic Surgeon.
Written By: Dr. Noah Weiss M.D.