If you have previously, or are currently experiencing knee pain, you may think that resting your affected leg and stopping all knee exercises is one of the best things you can do to help this. In reality, it is often important to undertake an exercise plan to promote healthy movement, desensitise the nervous system, and increase strength of the muscles and ligaments around the knee joint.
If you are experiencing knee joint pain, we always recommend that you seek professional help from a physiotherapist to diagnose your injury. Whether you are suffering from acute knee pain, or chronic knee pain from a condition such as knee osteoarthritis, here are some of our favourite strengthening and knee pain relief exercises you can complete at home with minimal to no equipment.
Single Leg Squat
The single leg squat is a fantastic exercise that targets single leg strength and control, in addition to all the muscles in the lower limb, and around the iliotibial band such as the gluteus medius! Start this exercise like a normal squat, but use only one leg as you bend the knee to lower yourself down. After tapping a bench or chair, use your grounded foot to push yourself back up. The focus of this exercise should be control, balance and stability. Try 2 sets of 8 to begin with, and if this is too easy, increase the difficulty by increasing the number of reps, or by holding a weight in your hands.
This exercise is one of many great quadriceps exercises for knee pain. Wall Sits work the quadriceps isometrically, which means the muscle group is activating under load, without moving. To complete this, bend your knees to place yourself in a squatting position against the wall, and hold! This exercise is especially great for pain relief for patients suffering from patellofemoral pain syndrome, due to the natural analgesic nature of the isometric exercise on the patellar tendon. Try 5 sets of 25 seconds to begin with, and progress this by increasing the duration of each hold, or placing a weight over the quads.
Single Leg Calf Raise
This exercise targets the calf muscles, and is a fantastic exercise for those who experience pain below their knee when they run. Using a wall for balance, push yourselves up onto your toes, and then slowly lower yourself back down to the floor. Active people should be aiming for approximately 2 sets of 25. You can increase the difficulty of this by placing your toes over a step, which will force your calf to work through a greater range.
Straight Leg Raise
The straight leg raise is a fantastic way to activate your quads at a low level. This one is especially great in patients who have recently undergone operations such as a total knee replacement, or have greatly reduced muscle mass. Simply start laying on your back, and keep a straight leg as you lift it up into the air. Make sure you don’t let your knee bend as you raise it up! Aim for 2 sets of 10-15 to start, and change the difficulty by increasing the amount of sets you complete.
To target the hamstrings, place your feet up onto a chair or bench. Pressing your heels down, use your hamstrings to extend your knees, and lift your core/waist into the air. Aim for around 2 sets of 12, and when ready, you can progress this by completing the exercise with a single leg, or increasing the reps!
Box Jump/Step Off
The box jump is a great beginner plyometric exercise, making your lower limb exert maximal effort over a short period of time. This is a great way to build up those fast twitch muscle fibres. Starting on the ground, move downwards in a squatting motion, and then quickly spring up, landing squarely on a box. Begin with 2 sets of 8, and then progress this by increasing the reps, decreasing time between sets, or increasing the height of the box.
This exercise can also be completed in reverse as a step off. Start on top of the box, and step backwards, so that you drop down, landing in the same position you would begin in before jumping up. This exercise can be progressed by increasing the height of the box, jumping backwards instead of stepping off, and landing on one foot instead of two. This is a great way to begin to get your knee used to impact exercises.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I exercise with knee pain?
Potentially! If the pain is low level, below a 4/10, and reduces after exercise, an exercise plan may be great for your pain! If the pain is worse than this and doesn’t subside, it may be better to complete a lower intensity exercise. Always seek physiotherapy for knee pain to see what is best for you!
Is physiotherapy good for knee pain?
Yes! Physiotherapists are specially trained and experienced to help you continue moving and reduce your knee pain. Through a combination of manual therapies and exercise therapy, physical therapy will be able to help you!
What is the best exercise for knee pain?
Unfortunately, there is no cheat code exercise to fix your knee pain! A Physiotherapist will be able to help diagnose what is causing your knee pain, and find an exercise that works best for you, in order to get you back to moving pain free.
Can knee pain be cured by exercise?
Absolutely! Exercise therapy is a great way to help decrease knee pain. Workouts for knee injuries can be used in conjunction with a foam roller to help relieve tightness, and other manual therapies such as soft tissue release or taping, to help improve your knee pain.
How do you know if your knee injury is serious?
If your knee is giving you constant sharp pain that doesn’t subside, or pain on basic activities, it is important to seek further help. A physiotherapist will be able to help diagnose your condition, and determine what your next best action is to decrease your pain.