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For knee pain exercises and stretches to work, you must work all the muscles around the knee. There are several that cross over the joint and help with movement. These muscles are the IT band, calf, hamstring, and quad muscles.
The first stretch will be a calf stretch. Start off with your legs out in front of you. You can bend up the leg you aren’t using towards you in a comfortable position. Keep the leg you want to stretch out in front of you. Take a stretch strap, dog leash, belt, or towel and wrap it around the ball of your foot. Relax your foot, and pull the strap towards you stretching your calf muscle. You should feel the stretch under your leg. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, and do three of them.
Next you want to move your kneecap, or patella around. This is important because your patella is attached to your quadriceps tendon and your patellar tendon. When those are tight, it is hard to bend your knee. Your leg needs to be straight and relaxed. You can push the patella up and down, superior and inferior, and side-to-side, medial and lateral. You can do this for 2 to 3 minutes.
Also using a knee sleeve might help with your knee pain. They help provide compression and a little bit of support, but they don’t stop the muscles from doing the work like a brace.
Then you will stretch your hamstrings. 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.
Now you will do an IT band stretch. There are also many ways to stretch the IT band, but if you are already using a strap, you can use it for the IT band as well. Use the same position as the hamstring stretch. Keep your leg straight and gently pull the leg across your body this time. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, and do it three times on each side.
The last stretch will be on your stomach, or in prone. You can also do this in sidelining, but on your stomach will help keep the thigh straight. 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 for some exercises. The first exercise is a hamstring curl. Stay on your stomach after the quad stretch. This time you will actively bend your knee bringing your foot towards your bottom to strengthen the hamstrings. Start off with 10 controlled repetitions, and you can work up from there.
The last set of exercises will be in standing. Now you will do calf strengthening with heel raises. Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart, come up on your toes as high as you can. Try not to lean forward, but bring your body straight up and slowly come back down. Push off as much as you can so your heel leaves the ground. Start off with ten and work your way up to 20-25. If that becomes easy, you can do one leg at a time.
Finally you will do squats. This will help strengthen your quads, hamstrings, gluteus muscles, and many others around the hip and knees. 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.