Knee pain is a common problem in people over the age of 40, but it can also begin at a much earlier age in active individuals who engage in athletics. In many cases, you can manage knee pain with the use of over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs, but exercises that strengthen the structures that support the knee are even more important to reduce discomfort and prevent further injury. Here are a few exercises that can help to reduce pain and improve knee function.
Straight Leg Raises
Lie on your back on the mat with legs. Bend the one knee, keeping foot on the floor. Tighten the thigh muscles on the extended leg and keep the foot in a normal position. Raise the leg 12 inches off the floor. Hold for 5 seconds, and then, slowly lower the leg to the floor. Switch to the other knee. You can slip your hand under your body at the small of the back to compensate for the natural arch in the back, to provide additional support.
Use the back of a chair to help you balance for this exercise. Stand with the feet about hip-width apart, with toes forward. Lift slowly onto the toes. Hold for a count of 5, and then, lower the heels to the floor. Repeat 10 times, building up gradually to a count of 20.
Place a chair on the floor. Stand about 12 inches in front of the chair with feet about hip-width apart and toes pointed forward. Bend at the hips, lowering your torso halfway to the chair, and then, raising to a standing position. Keep abs tight and knees behind the point of your toes. Repeat 10 times.
For the hamstring curls, you will also need to use a chair back for balance. Stand about a foot from the back of the chair, holding the back for support. Slowly, bend the right knee and lift the lower leg backward to its highest position, and then, slowly lower it to the floor. Repeat 10 times. Then, switch legs and do the same movement on the left knee. Gradually, increase the speed of the curls as your muscles gain strength.
Prone Leg Raises
Lie on your stomach on the mat. Holding hands at sides for leverage, lift the right leg upward, keeping the left leg on the floor, and hold for 5 counts. Repeat 10 times. Then, switch to the left leg and repeat 10 times.
Using a step bench or a stair, step onto it with your right foot. Lift onto left leg to tap the top of the step, and then lower the foot to the floor. Change to the left foot, and tap with the right foot and lower. Repeat each foot for 10 counts.
Side-Lying Leg Raises
Lie on the floor on a mat on your side, with hips against the floor and using the uppermost arm to steady your balance. Keeping the bottom leg extended, lift the top leg upward toward the ceiling and hold for a count of 10. Repeat 5 times, and then, switch to the other side and repeat. This exercise will help to firm the thighs that help support the knee joint.
Backward Treadmill Slow-Walk
You can use the treadmill at your local gym to strengthen the muscles around a painful knee. Start the treadmill at a very slow speed, such as 0.4 or 0.5 mph. Carefully turn around to walk on the treadmill backward, walking for 30 to 40 steps. This backward motion helps to strengthen the muscles around the knee joint to provide greater stability. Gradually, build up to 100 steps. As you become more accustomed to changing position on the treadmill, you can increase the speed to 0.8 to 1.0 mph.
Keeping your knees strong and flexible should be part of your joint health activities whenever you work out. Do these exercises regularly, and you will experience better knee function and less pain.
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