Knee & Leg Pain

Hi, I'm Doctor Jo, a licensed 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 Strengthening Exercises

Knee strengthening exercises can range from simple to complex. You can do very simple ones sitting down to more difficult ones standing up. In this video, Doctor Jo will show you a progression of knee strengthening exercises.

The first exercise is a seated knee extension, or long arc quad (LAQ) to help strengthen your quad muscles. It’s important to go slow and controlled to really work the muscles. Start off in a chair with your back straight. Slowly bring your foot up straightening out your leg. At the end, you can pull your toes up to help contract the muscles even more. Then slowly come back down. If that becomes easy, then you can add small ankle weights.

The next exercise is a seated hip flexion to help strengthen the hip flexor muscles. Again, make sure you are going in a slow controlled movement. Bring your knee up towards the ceiling as far as you comfortably can, and then slowly come back down. If this becomes easy, you can add ankle weights.

Now you are going to do squats. The best way to do a squat is to give yourself a target like a chair or couch. Spread your feet about shoulder width apart, and make sure your knees do not go in front of your toes. Stick your buttocks back and keep your back straight. If this is too hard, you can put a box in the chair, so you don’t have to squat as low. If the squats at the chair become too easy, you can do one leg squats. It’s the same concept, but this time, you might want to put the chair in front of you so you can hold on for balance.

Then you will do step-ups. This is on a tall step, but you should start off with something shorter like 2-3 inches. You can also use a step at home where there is a rail to hold onto. Go very slowly and controlled with the step up and step down. Count to three for both up and down with the movement.

The last exercise is a lunge. You can use a box or a step for a target. The higher the target, the easier it will be. Step over the box and try to touch it with your back knee. Try to keep your back straight in an upright position. Once it becomes easy, then you can take the box away and go down to the floor.

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5 Easy Ways to Relieve Knee Pain

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.

Knee Tendonitis Exercises & Stretches

These knee tendonitis exercises and stretches can help relieve the pain and irritation caused by knee tendonitis.

Tendonitis is basically when the connective tissue of the muscle to bone (tendon) becomes inflamed or irritated. When it’s in the knee, the most common tendon is the patellar tendon. This can cause a lot of pain and irritation in the whole knee.

The first stretch is a hamstring stretch. You can stretch the hamstring many different ways, and you can check them out in my hamstring stretching video. Today I will show you the stretch with a strap or belt. Put a loop around your foot, and use the strap to bring your leg straight up into a stretch. Try to keep your knee straight, and don’t let it bend. You should feel the stretch in the back of your leg. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, and do it three times on each side.

The next stretch will be on your stomach, or in prone. This will stretch your quadriceps muscle. Take a belt or dog leash and wrap around your foot/ankle. Take the strap and gently pull your foot towards your buttocks until you feel a stretch. Hold for 30 seconds and do it 3 times.

Now you will do a simple straight leg raise (SLR). You want to squeeze your muscles tight to lock out the knee and pull your toes towards your head to keep the whole leg straight. This will work your hip flexor muscles when you lift your leg off the ground. Use slow controlled movements to make sure you are using the muscles and not momentum. Start off with ten, and work your way up. 

Then, you are going to lie on your side. The top leg is going to stay straight and pull your toes up towards you. Keep your body in a straight line as well. This is going to work your hip abductor muscles. Then you are going to work the bottom leg working your hip adductor muscles. Same as above, keep the leg straight. Start with ten of each of these, and do both sides.

Finally using the resistive band for the last exercises, put one end in the door and close it tight. Wrap the band around either leg. You will do the exercises on both legs. The leg that has the band on it is working dynamically or with movement. The other leg is working statically to keep you stable. You will keep your leg straight and try not to bend your knee. Stand with the band across your body. With the band anchored in the opposite direction you will kick. Kick out to the side away from you into hip abduction. Keep your foot straight forward and your leg straight. Now turn towards the band, and kick behind you. The last one with the band is called terminal knee extension (TKE). Wrap the band around your knee right at the bend. Have the band anchored in front of you. Try to keep your foot down the whole time, where it doesn’t come completely off the floor. Now lift your heel until your knee bends, and then control it back down. You can do all of these 10 times, and then work your way up from there.

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Knee Osteoarthritis (OA) Stretches & Exercises

Knee osteoarthritis (OA), or as it's sometimes called wear-and-tear arthritis, is a chronic condition of the knee joint. It's caused when the cartilage between the joint breaks down leading to pain, stiffness and swelling.

The first exercises for knee osteoarthritis is a quad set. Straighten out your leg with your knee straight . You are going to try to push your knee down into the ground as hard as you can. To do this, you are activating your quad muscle. If you need a target for your knee, roll up a towel and place it under your knee. While you are squeezing your quad muscle to push the knee down, you can also pull your toes up towards you to activate the calf muscle. Try to told these for 3 - 5 seconds and do 10 of them.

The next exercise is a heel slide lying down. Prop up your good knee and put your surgery knee straight out. Still keeping your heel down when you slide, pull it towards your body as far as you can, and then slide back down. You can do about 10 of these. If you want to get a better stretch, then you can use a strap, dog leash, or belt to get some extra bend in the knee. Place the strap on your shin and make sure it won’t slide off. Then use the strap to pull your knee towards you while you are doing the heel slide.

After that you will do a bridge. Push your bottom up off the ground, but try to do this slowly, and do one segment of your back at a time curling upward. Then slowly go down the same way, one segment at a time.

Now you will do a straight leg raise lying on your back. For all of these you want to try to keep your leg straight by locking out your knee, and pull your toes towards your nose to activate the muscles in your leg. Slowly raise your leg to about the other side where the knee is bent, and then slowly come back down.

Then you will roll onto your stomach. Now you will do a hamstring curl. This time, keep your upper leg or thigh on the ground, and bend at your knee. Bring your foot towards your buttocks as far as you comfortably can, and then slowly come back down. Start off with 10, and work your way up to 20-25. If that becomes easy, then you can add light ankle weights.

Finally on the ground, take a ball or pillow folded in half, and put it between your knees. Squeeze into the ball and hold for 3 seconds, repeat 10 times.

The last exercise is standing up. This is on a tall step, but you should start off with something shorter like 2-3 inches. You can also use a step at home where there is a rail to hold onto. Go very slowly and controlled with the step up and step down. Count to three for both up and down with the movement.

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