5 Easy Ways to Relieve Knee Pain

Hi, I'm Doctor Jo, a Physical Therapist and Doctor of Physical Therapy. I hope you enjoy my video demos of stretches & exercises for common injuries and syndromes. Be safe. Have fun. And I hope you feel better soon.

Knee pain is becoming much more common. We work harder, stand longer, and play more aggressive sports. This causes our joints to suffer, especially our knees. The knee is the largest joint in our body, and there are many factors that can cause pain and irritation. When our knee hurts, often we walk differently, and that can cause problems in other places including our back, hips, ankles, and feet.

The main muscles that can cause problems in the knee area are the calf muscles, hamstrings, quad muscles, IT band, and the gluteus muscles. When any of these muscles are tight, they can put extra pressure on the knee joint causing pain. Here are some simple stretches for those areas to help relieve knee pain.

1. The first stretch is for the hamstring muscles. The hamstrings are the key muscles that flex or bend the knee. If these muscles are tight, they can cause a lot of problems, including putting painful pressure on the knee joint.

There are many different ways to stretch your hamstrings, but the hamstring stretch in long sitting is very easy to do without equipment.

To perform the hamstring stretch in long sitting:

  1. Sit on the ground with your legs straight out in front of you, and bend the leg you are not stretching towards you.
  2. Keep your back and knee as straight as you can. Pull your toes towards you, and lean forward bending at your hips until you feel a stretch.

2. The next stretch is for the quad muscles. The quads extend or straighten the knee. If the quad muscle is tight, it puts pressure on the patella and can lead to degeneration of the joint.

There are several ways to stretch the quads, but the quad stretch in prone is the easiest to do with a belt or strap:

To perform a quad stretch in prone:

  1. Lie on your stomach and wrap a belt or dog leash around your ankle.
  2. Put the strap over your shoulder, and pull your foot towards your bottom until you feel a stretch in the front of your thigh.

3. Now you will stretch the Iliotibial band (IT band). The IT Band is very important in stabilizing the knee during walking, running, and other activities. It also helps extend and abduct the hip. When it becomes tight, it can rub on the side of the joints and cause irritation and pain at both the knee and the hip.

A lot of people like to stretch the IT band using a foam roll. However, this is sometimes very painful for people. Another great way to stretch the IT band is the IT band stretch supine with a strap.

To perform an IT band stretch supine with a strap:

  1. Lie on your back. Using a strap or belt, wrap it around your foot, and pull your leg up keeping your knee locked out straight.
  2. When it starts to feel tight, pull your leg across your body until you feel a stretch on the outside of your leg. Hold the stretch.

4. Another very important stretch is for the calf muscles. The calf muscles help stabilize the ankle and knee while running, jumping, and other higher level activities. They also flex the leg at the knee. When your calf muscle becomes tight, it can put painful pressure on the knee joint and the ankle joint.

There are several ways to stretch the calf muscles, but the standing calf stretch is easy to do almost anywhere.

To perform the standing calf stretch / runners stretch:

  1. Using a chair or something sturdy for balance, stand with one foot directly behind you and one in front like a lunge position. 
  2. Keeping your back heel down and your foot facing forward, keep your back leg straight and bend your front knee forward until you feel a stretch in your back leg. Hold the stretch.

5. The last stretch is for the glutes. Even though it doesn’t cross over the knee, the gluteus maximus works with the hamstrings to bend the hip and knee, and it helps with stability. When this is tight, it can cause pain and instability at the hip and knee joint.

A great way to stretch this muscle is with the glute figure 4 stretch.

To perform the glute figure 4 stretch:

  1. Sit on the ground with your knees bent up. Cross the leg you want to stretch over the other with the ankle at the top of the knee in a figure 4.
  2. Lean forward until you feel a stretch. Hold the stretch.

These are just some of the very simple stretches you can do to help relieve knee pain. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments section.

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