When experiencing knee pain, exercise might not be the first activity one might think of when it comes to helping to ease the pain. It might seem that exercising would increase the pain. This isn’t always the case. In the case of knee pain caused by joint conditions, obesity, simple overuse, aging, or after recovering from an injury, exercise can help alleviate pain, reduce inflammation, decrease stiffness, and increase range of motion.
Exercise, Arthritis, and Injury
The most common cause of knee joint pain is due to arthritis. Certain types of arthritis are caused by normal wear and tear of the joints, while other types of arthritis can cause erosion inside of the joints. Arthritis leads to joint pain and stiffness in the affected joints. Exercise keeps the knee moving to reduce pain and stiffness.
This movement also helps to alleviate much of the inflammation or swelling that may develop in the joint as well. When the muscles around the knee are strong and flexible, stiffness is further reduced with increased range of motion of the joint in the knee.
For those who have experienced a knee injury, exercise can also help to relieve symptoms of pain, inflammation, and stiffness. Physical therapy uses special exercises to strengthen the muscles to help the knee return to its proper strength and range of motion. Once the damage from the injury has improved, exercise can help strengthen the knee and bring it back to proper functioning.
Exercise and Knee Pain
Exercise reduces pain, as the movement increases the amount of fluid, called synovial fluid that is in the knee. This helps to increase lubrication, making movements a little easier and thus reducing pain.
Exercise strengthens the muscles around the knee. The most effective exercises for the knee include those that strengthen the quadriceps and the hamstring. These muscles run down the front and back of the leg and directly affect the knee. Weak muscles may cause the knee to shift ever so slightly during movement which can lead to pain over time. Other important muscles to strengthen that might affect knee pain include those in the calves, hips, and butt.
According to Bauerfeind stretching exercises increase flexibility and range of movement. When muscles are strong and flexible, they are able to work more effectively with less pain and effort. Keeping muscles limber can help decrease symptoms of stiffness.
Not only does exercise have a direct effect on relieving pain that is felt in the knee, but it has indirect effects as well. Keeping up with a consistent exercise routine can help with weight loss. Obesity increased the effects of pain felt in the knee whether due to arthritis, injury, or other damage. One pound of weight puts an additional four pounds of pressure on the joint in the knee, so losing just five pounds would take an extra twenty pounds of pressure off of the knee.
Types of Exercise for Knee Pain
It is not so much the type of exercise that is chosen, but that those with knee pain choose an exercise plan and stick with it. Consistent exercise brings the most benefits for knee pain relief and may even help prevent a little of the pain and stiffness associate with arthritis and injury.
Aerobic exercise and strength training are both important aspects of a healthy and balanced exercise program. Walking and bicycling are simple and inexpensive ways to increase activity and movement in the joints. However, for those who find these types of activities to be too difficult, other forms of exercise are effective as well. Water aerobics takes the weight off of the joints during the exercise and movements. Exercise that focuses on stretching movements may be helpful as well, but may not strengthen the muscles as much. These types of exercises can be found in programs that include yoga and tai chi.
It is important to check with a physician before beginning any exercise program. A doctor might even have a group of exercises that would be effective for individual circumstances.