8 Knee Exercises for Strength and to Reduce Pain

Some knee pain will go away on its own within a few weeks with a reduction in activity level, Stewart says. “But if it doesn’t get better, then it may be something to get checked out.” Seeing a primary care provider, an orthopedic surgeon, a physiatrist (physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist) or a sports medicine physician is a good first step. Treatments will depend on the cause of the pain, but most knee pain will respond well to physical therapy and a home exercise program, he says.

Preventing pain

According to Orlandi, keeping active is the key to preventing pain: “One of the favorite things I say as a clinician is ‘motion is lotion.’ It provides a good exchange of nutrients for the cartilage. It helps to decrease swelling. It gets your muscles working. All of these good things happen when you stay moving.”

As we age, the amount of muscle mass decreases. “There’s nothing that can stop that,” Orlandi says. “It’s just the natural aging process. So exercise is really important to increase the muscle strength so that it’s load sharing with the joints.”

Losing weight if you are overweight also can help. Every extra pound in the body exerts 3 extra pounds of pressure on the knees and other joints, Orlandi says: “Even losing 10 pounds can decrease the amount of stress on your knees by 30 pounds.”

Other ways to minimize joint pain are to stay hydrated or consider an anti-inflammatory diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, lean protein, nuts, seeds and healthy fats, says Joseph Ciotola, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with Mercy Hospital in Baltimore.

Strengthening the muscles around the knee joint can help your body tolerate pain and stress on the joint. One of the best overall exercises is bicycling, because it keeps the quadriceps muscles in the front of the thighs strong, Ciotola says. Weight training and resistance exercises are good, but you must do them with good form, he says. Walking also is helpful, Stewart says, as is swimming or aqua aerobics.

Best exercises for knee pain

A comprehensive exercise program should combine cardiovascular endurance plus flexibility and strength exercises, Orlandi says. There are many good exercises to strengthen the knee joints and surrounding leg, hip and buttocks muscles, she says. Aim for at least two 20-minute sessions a week. Orlandi suggests trying the following.


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