Ouch! Exercising with Knee Pain
What activities tend to be hardest on the knees?
Exercises or movements that involve excessive flexing, especially with weights, such as a full squat or leg press or lots of pounding tend to be worst. Any type of exercise that involves great agility--sudden stops, starts, and pivots, or potentially awkward jumps and landings - such as basketball, tennis, soccer, racquetball, football, rugby or volleyball. Jumping exercises called plyometrics, which focus on increasing muscle power, jumping rope, trampoline, can also be tough on the knee joint. Jumping places a force of two to three times your body weight across your knees, which naturally increases the potential for injury, and people with knee problems would do best to avoid jumps that require a very deep knee bend or could torque the knee on the landing.
What causes knee pain?
Severe knee pain is generally not from overuse, but from a sudden injury - often sustained during quick weight shifts and direction changes, or upon landing from a jump. A frequent victim in these cases is the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), one of the fibrous bands that connect the thighbone to the shinbone. ACL tears are serious and may require surgical repair.
Injuries definitely develop over time, as well, such as from repetitive stress that damages cartilage and other soft tissue in the knee joint. The most common injury is patellofemoral stress syndrome (runner's knee), in which the cartilage of the patella (kneecap) becomes irritated, resulting in pain and inflammation. Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) is another source of pain for athletes. The IT band is a stretch of fibrous tissue that runs down the outer thigh and knee; running and other activities cause the band to repeatedly rub against the outside of the knee joint, which may lead to inflammation and pain at the outside of the knee. ITBS is usually seen in long-distance runners and cyclists but can occur in soccer players, skiers and weightlifters. Reducing activities can help ease the pain of any overuse injury, while some may require physical therapy or other medical treatment.
What are exercises for people with knee pain?
Extremely versatile, inexpensive and can be done anywhere, are these fun rubbery bands. You can tie a big knot in it and wedge it under the door, or you can tie it around a pole. Once you do one of these, you can then tie the other end around your foot and start doing different leg exercises like bringing your knee to your chest, leg extensions, leg curls, leg kickbacks, leg holds with the tube tight, raising your leg out to the side or bringing it across your body.
Swimming is a great choice for those with bad knees because of the low impact environment it provides. The water acts as a brace for your body helping to lift and support you as you exercise. Swimming is a great exercise that works all of the muscles in your body, giving you a complete workout while not causing you any discomfort. Swimming also can hold water aerobics activities, which will increase the flexibility of your knees, as well as giving you much needed exercise. If you're interested in water aerobics, many classes are offered at gyms.
Walking is the most natural exercise for the human body and one of my favorite body movement suggestions to people It is a great exercise for people with bad knees because of how accessible and painless it's for people with bad knees. You can buy a pedometer and keep track of how many steps you're taking to create a better workout (or download an app on your mobile phone). Pedometers allow you to find your limit and stay away from any discomfort. Walking is not as high impact as running because the weight you put on your body is less while doing the actually walking and you don't have to come to a sudden jerky stop while walking. For a challenge, walk in soft sand.
Yoga is seen as an ideal exercise for people with bad knees because it has almost no impact and actually increases the flexibility and strength of your knees. Yoga is very accessible in just about any gym or school and can be done at home after you've learned some positions.
These are just three exercises that will help you with your bad knees, research for more low-impact exercises and there will surely be one that's right for you. Bad knees may be annoying, but they don't have to keep you from exercising, keep searching and you will find the exercise that's right for you.
Reclined Floor Exercises
Side-lying Leg Lifts: Wearing ankle weights above the knee, lie on your left side, legs straight and together, with your left arm supporting your head. Keeping your right foot flexed and your body straight, slowly lift your right leg to about shoulder height, then slowly lower. Repeat with your left leg.
Ab Crunches, Reverse Ab Crunches
Side Plank or Traditional Plank
Pilates focuses on building strength. Originally developed by Joseph Pilates in a World War II concentration camp, the program uses a series of movements that employ the body's weight as its resistance to train and strengthen muscles. Few movements require strain on the knees and the leg exercises can increase the strength of the quadriceps and hamstring muscles to better support the knee joints. The first movements of Pilates zero in on the "powerhouse" or core area to build muscle support for the spine. By having a strong midsection that can keep the upper body erect, you lessen the strain placed on the knees by poor posture. Pilates can correct and relieve many areas of stress for people with bad knees.
Bicycling can be done outdoors or inside on a stationary bike. This low-impact exercise is fine for people with bad knees, because it uses the leg muscles without straining the joints and it increases cardiovascular health. 20 minutes per day is a good way to start with this type of exercise.
Upper-Body Ergometer or “Kranking”
This is that piece of equipment in the cardio area at your gym that looks like a bike for hands. Treat it like any other piece of cardio equipment—go for a long forty-five-minute stint or pound out a shorter and harder interval session. Special Note* though this may look easy, the Ergometer is actually very challenging. Adjust the resistance slowly and become familiar to the upper’s body use for cardio before going faster or adding resistance.
Elliptical trainers found in many gyms are the equivalent of riding a bike and walking or running without any pressure on the knee joints. These machines use the lower legs for primary motion. Some elliptical machines have handles that work the upper body for a total upper and lower body workout. These machines offer a low-impact workout that burns calories and leads to weight loss over time.
Most gyms have rowing machines and they’re often some of the most underutilized pieces of cardio equipment. Rowing is mostly upper-body work (great for toning up your arms and shoulders), but your legs provide low-impact support by pushing against the machine with each stroke. Always keep the movement fluid and controlled rather than jerking through each motion and push with your legs and avoid hunching forward to protect your back. To minimize pain in knees, keep a slight bend in the elbows and knees rather than locking the joints at full extension.
Upper Body Weight and Circuit Training
Upper body weight training is another exercise for people with bad knees. For weight loss, the best approach is to use less weight with more repetitions (circuit training) and to focus on the middle of the body by doing abdominal crunches. Weight training helps to improve the cardiovascular system, makes you stronger, increases flexibility. and. once you lose some weight. it helps you maintain acceptable body fat limits.
Body movement and a consistent exercise routine is imperative to optimal health and wellness. For people with aches and pains, exercising is very possible, but you may have to substitute certain favorite exercises for another. Put your ego aside and modify when possible. Listen to your body, but don’t fall into the habit of being lazy or not pushing yourself too hard. Maximize your effort with upper body exercises. Plan out daily workouts ahead of time by writing them down and sticking to a weekly routine. Challenge yourself and keep the intensity level up throughout your workouts (a heart rate monitor can assist you with that, for the ones on the cardio machines are inaccurate). Also keep your calories and food consumption charted and eat healthy, whole and organic (when possible) foods (not too much). Livestrong has a great free calorie charter available through their website and a mobile app for those with smart phones. Ice your knees if the pain is too great after your exercises, but do not rely on over the counter pain relievers because it is temporary relief, only masks the symptoms of the real problem and harms the liver.
Resources: EverydayHealth.com, SparkPeople.com, LiveStrong.com, WebMD.com, WellSphere.com, OneResult.Com