Health Education

Knee Pain and Exercises

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The knee is one of the largest joint in the body and is vital for every day activity. Knee pain is most often related to muscular weakness, overuse, or an acute injury.

What is the initial treatment for knee pain?

Initial treatment of knee pain includes pain relief and ice. Ibuprofen products like Motrin and Advil tend to work better than acetaminophen (Tylenol) for muscle and joint pain. Besides taking pain away, ibuprofen works to decrease inflammation and swelling. Place a plastic bag with ice (a bag of frozen veggies works great too) on the knee for 15-20 minutes for the first 24-hours. Leave ice off at least ½- 1hours between applications.

After the initial 24-48 hours, treating knee pain has 2 components which includes stretching or flexibility exercises and strengthening exercise of the leg muscles supporting the knees. The main muscle groups involved are the quadriceps (front of the thigh) the hamstring (back of the thigh), and the two adductors (inner thigh).

It is best to warm the muscles before stretching, either with low intensity activities such as walking or soaking in a warm bath. Never force a stretch to the point of pain. Hold each stretch for 10 counts and do 10-15 repetitions.

When can I resume playing sports?

If there is any swelling of the knee, do not play. You should be able to walk without a limp and bend and straighten the knee completely. Once you resume activity, rest if there is pain and don’t take pain medication prior to the activity- masking pain may lead to a more serious injury and longer recovery. If you have pain, continue with the strengthening and stretching exercises and hang in there – you will get back to the court or field soon!

When should I see a provider?

Please see us if there is a lot swelling, limited range of motion of the knee, knee “locking” or inability to straighten the knee, no improvement after the first 4 weeks of therapy or if the pain worsens during the first two weeks.

What are some stretches for my knee?

Stretches that are helpful for knee pain include:

  • For a knee and calf stretch, hold the top of your left foot with right hand and gently pull heel toward buttocks. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat with the other leg.
  • For another calf stretch, stand close to a solid support and lean on it with your forearms, head resting on hands. Bend one leg and place your foot on the ground in front of you, with the other leg straight behind. Slowly move your hips forward, keeping your lower back flat and hold for 15 to 30 seconds.
  • For a hamstring stretch, sit down and straighten your left leg. The sole of your right foot should rest next to the inside of your straightened leg. Lean slightly forward and touch your foot with your fingers. Keep your left foot upright with the ankle and toes relaxed. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat with right leg.
  • For a stretch of the quadriceps, stand in a natural position. Grab your foot and pull it behind your back, until you feel a gentle stretch along the front of your thigh. Hold for 10 counts and then relax. Do 5-10 repetitions on each leg.