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Best Exercises For Knee Pain If You Don't Have Time

Are you living with annoying or persistent knee pain, but you don't have time to deal with it? Do you feel like the pain isn't bad enough to see a doctor, so you keep ignoring it?

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS) typically presents as anterior knee pain – it is prevalent among people who are active and is one of the most common diagnoses in sports medicine. People experience knee pain for a variety of different reasons, but there are some common factors that contribute to abnormal mechanics across the knee joint, placing excessive stress and pressure through the patellofemoral joint, often resulting in pain under or around the patella.

If you can relate to any of the following statements, then these exercises are for you…

  • My knee starts to ache if I sit for too long with my knees bent. I feel like I have to straighten my leg…and sometimes I hear a pop. (Guess what?! This has a name…it’s called a positive “Movie Goers Sign”)

  • Sometimes I wake up and my knee aches for no reason. But if I think about what I did the previous day, it’s likely that I walked (or ran) more than usual, or wore less supportive shoes.

  • I like to jog for exercise, but my knee starts to hurt after 15-20 minutes.

  • I feel my knee pain (or hear it grinding) when I go down (or up) stairs.

  • My knee aches around the patella (aka kneecap) randomly if I am on my feet for too long.

  • I like to lift weights or take classes at the gym, but I can’t do certain exercises, like squats or lunges, because it bothers my knee.

Ok, so if you are still reading this, then you probably have experienced one (or more) of the statements above. Keep reading and I will share some tips that can help…

First of all, I know that time can often be a huge “reason” for not doing anything about your pain. And until the motivation is truly there, then “time” will continue to be a limiting factor to why you aren’t getting better. So, I have separated the next section of exercises into two different categories, so no matter what your level of motivation is, you can get the most out of the valuable time you invest.

Some of the common findings that we see in patients with knee pain are weakness and tightness across the hip. The hip flexors become hypertonic and tight because we spend so much time sitting; and the gluteals become weak and inhibited. As a result, we develop muscle imbalance, abnormal mechanics, gradual overuse of tissues, and then pain. We often hear people give advice to strengthen your quads if you have knee pain. In reality, it is even more valuable to build strength in the gluteals and stability across the pelvis, while normalizing flexibility through the hip and leg.

So let’s move on to some exercises that can help treat your knee pain. These should be performed consistently, at least 3 times per week for 6 weeks, and can help resolve knee pain for good. (Keep in mind that there is no single program that is best for everyone, so if you are looking to get the most personalized program for your condition, you should consult with a physical therapist.)

Now, if you are ready to try some quick, easy exercises to help improve your knee pain, then Choose your own Adventure based on how much time you are willing to commit…

I’m short on time…just give me the minimum and I will stick to it…

Best 3 Exercises

1. Psoas / Hip Flexor Stretch

Start in a half-kneeling position (kneeling on a pillow for comfort). Tighten your abdominals and slightly pelvic tilt posteriorly to stabilize your spine. Then shift your weight forward toward the front foot until you feel a stretch in the front of the thigh (of your back leg). To make it more intense, you can raise your arm and slightly tilt your upper body away from the side being stretched. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times..

2. Single leg bridges

Lying on your back with both knees bent – one flat on the floor and the other lifted straight up. Press with your foot and gluteals to lift your hips up off of the floor, taking the other knee straight upward. Then pause for 1-2 seconds and slowly lower back down. Be sure to keep your hips level throughout the motion. Repeat 5-10 times on each side for 3 sets each.

3. Monster walks

Standing with feet shoulder width apart and a band wrapped around your ankles (or around the knees if discomfort). Take one step to the side to put more tension through the band, then slowly step closer with your other foot, but never going closer than shoulder-width. Repeat 15 steps each direction. Repeat 3 laps.


I’m pretty motivated…so give me a little more and I think I can do it…

Best 6 Exercises

Perform exercises 1-3 as above, and add the following…

4. Hamstrings Stretch

Lying on your back near a doorway or a corner, with the uninvolved leg straight out. Place involved foot up on wall in a doorway or corner. Keep a slight bend in the knee and scoot your hips closer to the wall until you feel a stretch in the back of the thigh. (There should not be any tingling or burning into the foot.) Relax with your leg here for 1-2 minutes.

5. Roll on foam roller – Quads, Inner thigh, and Outer thigh

Roll your leg back and forth on a foam roller, targeting the front of the thighs (quadriceps), the inner thigh (adductors), and the outer thigh. Roll for approximately 30 seconds to 1 minute in each area.

6. Single leg standing tripod with forward reach

Hold your balance by standing on one foot. Shift your weight slightly until you feel like you are putting equal pressure through the big toe, pinky toe, and the heel (this is called a “tripod” position). If you can hold this position steadily, then slowly lean forward and reach a hand toward the floor (the other leg will extend back behind you). Then slowly return all the way to upright standing and repeat without putting your foot down. Try to minimize side-to-side movement at your knee. Option: hold a kettlebell or weight. Maintain your balance or repeat for 30 seconds. Repeat 3 sets.

Good luck with the program! Remember, none of the exercises should hurt while you are performing them, so modifications may be necessary depending on your condition. Please let me know what you think and if these exercises helped you with your knee pain! As always, I am available for questions.


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