Knee Stretches to Help Your Pain
Your knees are joints that connect the thigh bone (the femur) to the shin, allowing for complex movements such as walking, running, crouching, bending, or jumping.
In a sense, your knee is a very important hinge, one of the largest and most intricate joints in your body, essential for your mobility and stability. If you’re an athlete, an office worker, or simply a person who likes to take walks: discomfort in and around your knee can affect any aspect of your physical and mental life.
Overuse, injury, or degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis can cause damage to the knee and result in pain, swelling, and reduced flexibility.
Some of the most common knee injuries involve the tearing of the ligaments surrounding the joint, but the knee is also surrounded by a protective layer of cartilage (to help reduce friction and shock), which can also become inflamed.
Common knee conditions include:
- Arthritis: Inflammation of the knee joint that can cause pain, stiffness, and loss of mobility.
- Tendinitis: Inflammation of the tendons around the knee that can cause pain, especially when walking or climbing stairs
- Bursitis: Inflammation of the fluid-filled sacs that cushion the knee joint, causing pain and swelling
- Meniscus tear: A tear in the shock-absorbing cartilage in the knee that can cause pain, swelling, and stiffness
- Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury: A tear in the ligament that provides stability to the knee, causing pain and balance issues. An ACL tear is often caused by a sudden twisting motion, often during intense physical activity.
- Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) injury: A tear in the ligament that provides stability to the knee, causing severe pain and decreased mobility. These tears are usually caused by direct impact or trauma.
Stretching improves flexibility and relieves muscle tension. Starting a routine can help support overall knee health by maintaining or improving joint mobility and flexibility, reducing the risk of injury, and improving blood flow.
Why stretch? Because it’s good for you! You should stretch to:
- Improve flexibility: Regular knee stretching can help increase your range of motion.
- Reduce knee pain: Stretching can help relieve knee pain caused by conditions such as knee osteoarthritis and patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) by reducing muscle tension and improving joint mobility.
- Prevent injury: Regular knee stretching can help prevent injury by maintaining or improving flexibility and stability in the knee. This can be especially important for athletes and people who are physically active.
- Improve blood flow: Stretching can help improve blood flow to the knee joint, possibly reducing stiffness.
Knee Stretches for Daily Pain
Though it is always important to consult with your doctor or physical therapist before you start any new strenuous activity, especially if you’re in pain or just had surgery, these day-to-day stretches can help prevent a lot of discomfort down the line.
Some common knee stretches include:
- Hamstring stretch: Sit on the floor with both legs extended straight in front of you. Reach forward to touch your toes, keeping your back straight. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.
- Quad stretch: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold onto a chair or wall for balance. Bend your knee and bring your heel towards your buttock. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.
- IT band stretch: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Cross your left ankle over your right knee. Bend your right knee and push your hips forward until you feel a stretch along the outside of your left thigh. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.
Effective stretches also include side leg raises and single-leg lifts.
Maintain Your Knee
A healthy knee is a cornerstone of a healthy, physically active body.
Regular exercise, proper posture, avoiding activities that put excessive strain on the joint: all can help keep your knees in good working condition.
If you’re in pain, call your doctor today. Early management now can save you a lot of pain later.