Those who struggle with chronic knee pain know it is essentially the equivalent of having a pebble in your shoe. For people who exercise regularly, knee pain can mean a significant lifestyle change. It can also affect even the simplest of physical tasks making almost any activity difficult and uncomfortable.
Fortunately, the solution to chronic knee pain doesn’t mean the beginning of a sedentary life on the couch. There is a multitude of methods for healing your knees and getting you back to climbing staircases like a champ.
Exercises for Knee Pain
While it may be tempting to combat knee pain with copious amounts of R & R, not moving can oftentimes make the issue worse. In fact, for those who aren’t hitting their step count goals on a particularly regular basis, getting the joints moving can often be the simple solution to a nasty little knee pain problem.
Start by trying some of the following low impact exercises to find some relief.
When it comes to exercises for knee pain, lifting weights or any activities involving sudden stops, jumping, or pivoting can cause the problem to worsen. Swimming is an excellent alternative to high impact exercise because it allows the body to move through water without putting pressure on the knees. Arthritis is a leading cause of knee pain, and swimming reduces joint stiffness while also strengthening the muscles around the joints. If you aren’t a strong swimmer, try a water aerobics class or even walking through the water.
The knees are particularly vulnerable to injury and chronic pain due to the multitudes of structures within the knee joint. In fact, the knees carry more structures than any other joint in the body. Bicycling is a great preventative and healing exercise for knee pain as it strengthens the quadriceps muscles which inherently act as protectors to the knee joint. However, if you have been suffering from recurring or ongoing knee pain, it is important to consult with a doctor for knee pain before saddling up.
Tai Chi is an ancient practice that combines meditation and deep breathing with graceful slow movements. One research study found that Tai Chi may be a more effective treatment than seeking out physical therapy for knee pain. Tai Chi increases flexibility and strength without causing inflammation, and also takes the emphasis off of the ailment by placing focus on breathing and proper form.
Yoga for Knee Pain
Yoga has been recognized as an incredible way to improve mental and physical health for 5,000 years and is one of the most popular exercises for knee pain. Studies have found that yoga reduces pain in the joints by reducing inflammation over time.
In 2010, a study was conducted by researcher Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, Ph.D., at Ohio State University in Columbus, which measured blood markers for inflammation in 50 women. The women were divided into two groups: novices and experts. The study monitored levels of various proteins which cause inflammation in many forms of arthritis. What Kiecolt-Glasser found was that while there was no difference during the actual yoga session, the participants who had been practicing yoga on a regular basis had lower amounts of these blood markers than the beginners.
Yoga is gentle and low impact enough to practice every day. Read on for some specific yoga poses for knee pain as well as which poses to avoid. We recommend practicing these with the supervision of an expert and sharing with them your current limitations and pains.
Yoga Poses for Knee Pain
Best Yoga Poses for Knee Pain
1. Chair Pose
In this pose, you stand with your feet and legs together. Keep the chest lifted, and sit back as if you were in a chair. Raise your arms up with your hands open, and make sure your weight is on your heels. Make sure your knees aren’t sticking out further than your toes. This way, your weight will be on your hip. Additionally, this pose will help your hips, thighs, and calves, be much stronger which in turn makes the knee function better.
2. Peaceful Warrior
This pose is very popular among the yoga workouts. To get into this pose, place your right foot in front with the toes pointing straight out, your left toes will be shifted 90 degrees to the side. Stretch your arms out with the palms facing upwards. Bend the right knee into a lunge. After, put the back of your left hand on your left leg and arch your back. Place the right arm above your head and point them to the back wall. Finally, tilt your head back so that you are facing the ceiling. The Peaceful Warrior workouts your quadriceps, the glutes, as well as the hamstrings. These muscles help keep your knee healthy.
3. Bridge Pose
Lie on your yoga matt facing upwards. Place your feet steadily on the floor, making sure they are about shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees gently so that the space between your knees and feet is straight up. Lay your arms down to the side. Now, resting on just the shoulders, tighten the glutes and push up through your heels so as to lift your body off the ground. The biggest perk of this plus is that it works out the iliotibial band (also known as the IT band) If you’re IT band is too loose, you can end up suffering from knee pain
4. High Lunge
In this pose, you stand towards the front of your yoga mat. You take one big step back with the left foot as you get into a deep lunge. Then you proceed to arch the right leg about 90 degrees. Continue by lifting the arms up as you face forward. Make sure that if your hamstrings feel too tight, you can bend the back leg slightly- doing this will also be less stressful on your knees. “This pose strengthens the glutes, quads, and calves in a stable position,” Steven Cheng the certified yoga instructor says. “The balancing aspect further strengthens all these muscle groups that support the knees.”
5. Eagle Pose
This pose will have you looking like a tangled octopus, but it’s fun to do and has benefits for your knee. Start this pose by standing straight up. Now bend your knees and wrap the one leg over the other. You will be balancing on one foot. Additionally, cross your thighs so that one is on top of another. Make sure that there is no space between them. You can also wrap your arms similarly, or place your palms together as if praying. The knees are kept safe in this pose since they are bent while working out the muscles around it that help strengthens the knee.
Worst Yoga Poses for Knee Pain
Yoga can help your strengthen numerous parts of your body. However, through the process, you’re placing a lot of pressure on different muscles. This can be harmful to do for areas that are already weak by overworking them rather than supporting them. If your yoga instructor asks you to get into of the following poses, simply ask them to modify them for your condition. Try avoiding the following:
1. Camel Pose
This pose requires placing your knees on the mat. To adjust this pose for you, you may want another mat to roll up and place under your knees, or use a folded blanket.
2. Hero Pose
Kneeling on the floor is part of this pose. Additionally, it stretches the MCL. There are a couple of ways to modify this pose so that you don’t have to sit out. Use a yoga block to sit on, and/or place another mat or blanket above your calves.
3. Twisted/ Revolved Triangle
This pose is deadly for the knees because it causes two counterproductive stretches. One of your legs is locked out straight; additionally, your back hip is twisted out. This can place a lot of lateral forces on the knee. Try placing the feet parallel to each other, instead of perpendicular.
4. Lotus Pose
This pose requires that you bend the knees while placing crossed feet on your thighs with the bottom of your feet pointing upward. This needs a range of motion and rotation from your knees. Replace this with simply sitting with your legs crossed.
5. Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose
You will find yourself bending your knees in towards your chest. People often hyperextend their knee on both legs during this pose. To improve it, you can bend the knees slightly on both the standing and extended leg.
Stretches for Knee Pain
The yoga poses mentioned earlier help relieve knee pain and work out the areas around it. However, they also work out other parts of your body and may require balancing techniques that are learned over time. The following stretches may have similar elements, but require a lot less moving parts to complete. Make sure to switch sides to work out the right and left side of your body.
1. Lunging Hip Flexor Stretch
This stretch helps open up the hips. Kneel on one knee, and place your opposite foot on the floor in front of you. Lean forward, tighten your butt and raise your arm that is on the same side as your kneeling leg.
2. Figure Four Stretch
With this exercise, you will avoid tightness in the glutes, which will, in turn, help the other muscles involved in your knee movements. Lie down on your back. Cross your right foot over your opposite quad, and bend your left knee. Place your hands on the back of your left leg, and gently bring it towards your chest. Once you feel a stretch that you are comfortable with, hold that pose.
3. Standing Hamstrings Stretch
Standing on your foot, place the opposite foot in front of you. Make sure the heel is on the floor, and the toes are up off the ground. Lean forward over your hips and bend your standing knee as you sit back keeping your left leg straight with the pressure on your heel.
4. Calf Stretch
For this stretch, stand in front of a surface you can lean on. Place one of your legs behind you, and put the opposite one in front of you with your knees slightly bent. Continue by resting your hands on the wall and push against it. Keep your back leg straight with the heel planted on the floor. You will feel the stretch on your back leg’s calf.
Injections for Knee Pain
When stretches are not enough to relieve your knee pains, you may want to consider looking into knee injections. Fortunately, there are options to choose from.
Hyaluronic Acid Supplements – These types of injections are typically received weekly for three to five weeks depending on the specific product being used. Keep in mind that these are not medications, but they’re still injected into the knee joints to work with the hyaluronic acid your body already has. Normally, hyaluronic acid is a natural shock absorber and lubricant. Unfortunately, this acid breaks down in some people. Injecting it into the knee may lessen pain and inflammation. During the procedure, you will initially have to remove some joint fluid to make room for the supplements.
Arthrocentesis – This often also named joint fluid aspiration. This procedure is the removal of joint fluid. This is usually done so that it can be tested. However, removing the excess fluid can also quickly ease pain and swelling. Doctors will often use the same puncture to prepare the knee for a cortisone shot.
Cortisone Shot for Knee Pain
Corticosteroid Injections – Cortisone shots are a quick and easy way to relieve pain and inflammation in the knees. They are usually made with corticosteroid medication and a local anesthetic. This relief may last anywhere from a few days to more than six months. Fortunately, these injections avoid many of the side effects typically found in the oral versions of this medication. If this sounds too good to be true, that may be because it is. Frequent knee injections can work against you by breaking down cartilage causing joint infections or nerve damage. That is why you will often receive a limit on the number of times you can get this remedy from your doctor.
Best Shoes for Knee Pain
Shoes have a significant impact on your knees. The average person does not put too much thought into how their shoe choices will affect the rest of their body. However, when dealing with knee pain, you should start by looking at the small factors that may have greater effects on your knees. Although we can guide you in the right direction, consider conferring with professionals such your doctor, an athletic store expert, or an orthopedic specialist for their opinion. When picking the right shoe, consider your condition, your lifestyle, and fashion preferences. Try avoiding clogs, “barefoot shoes,” high heels and extra supportive shoes.
Best Running Shoes for Knee Pain
Yoga and stretching are excellent exercises for improving knee pain. Another great workout to consider is running. Safe and consistent running habits can improve knee pains and help you lose weight which can reduce pressure on the knees. Make sure to pick the best shoes for your fit.
For overpronators, the best running shoes are ones like the Asics Gel Kayano 24. This shoe features a gel that cushions the heels and toes. This allows for a safe and comfortable foot roll while running. For individuals with high arches, the shoe should integrate a similar cushion system in the rear section of the shoe.
Supplements for Knee Pain
Not everyone has time to exercise; luckily, there are also several supplements that have been proven to help treat knee pain and rebuild worn-out joints. Many of these include natural ingredients that improve joint pain by decreasing stiffness and increasing the range of mobility. The most effective supplements are SAM-e and Boswellia extract.
SAM-e is a molecule located in the body’s tissues. When ingested, it has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. It’s great for the health of joints and reduces pain along with other osteoarthritis symptoms. Several studies have proven that this supplement can be as effective as drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen.
The Boswellia extract has been used for over a thousand years. Recently, studies have proven it can effectively treat joint pain. The acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid (AKBA) is the main medicinal compound. It is known to target many of the body’s different inflammation pathways.
Vitamins for Knee Pain
While vitamins will never serve as a one-stop shop solution for knee pain, they can certainly help on the preventative care front and even offer some relief. Vitamin D, for example, helps the body absorb calcium and promote bone grown, and healthy bones mean healthy knees. Vitamin C can be helpful on the opposite end of the spectrum by reducing the bone size which in turn decreases the risk of knee osteoarthritis.
Glucosamine for Knee Pain
Our bodies naturally produce glucosamine. It can be found in cartilage and fluids around the joints. Glucosamine for knee pain is harvested from shellfish in a laboratory and turned into dietary supplements. Research studies have found that the anti-inflammatory properties in glucosamine reduce rheumatoid arthritis pain by promoting the regeneration of cartilage throughout the body.
Essential Oils for Knee Pain and Swelling
Essential oils are plant extracts that can be utilized through inhaling, applying topically, or consuming. They have become an extremely popular natural alternative for pain relief and even relaxation. Peppermint oil has a seemingly never-ending laundry list of pain relief properties making it one of the most popular essential oils historically and on the market today. Other fantastic essential oils for knee pain and swelling are marjoram, cypress, copaiba, and lemongrass.
Acupuncture for Knee Pain
Acupuncture has been a staple of Chinese medicine for thousands of years. Acupuncture works by inserting tiny needles into the body. Treatment varies from patient to patient; however, several clinical studies have found that acupuncture is successful in relieving osteoarthritis pain in the knee. Not only does acupuncture reduce inflammation in the knee area, but it also releases the body’s natural pain relief chemicals: endogenous opioid endorphins.
When to See a Doctor for Knee Pain
While many types of knee pain can be managed and even successfully cured at home, it is absolutely crucial to know when to see a doctor for knee pain. If your knee pain involves significant swelling, fever, or was brought on by a sudden forceful impact, do not try to manage your pain at home.