You have knee pain and are wondering what you can do on your own and what exercises to do to get rid of it. In order to find the best exercises for knee pain, you need to find out the source of your knee pain. This blog will cover everything knee-related including:
- Knee pain diagnosis
- Causes of knee pain
- Knee pain relief
- Knee bracing
- And the best exercises for knee pain
The first step to treating knee pain is to understand the root cause behind it and what’s feeding the issue so let’s begin!
Knee Pain Diagnosis
How can you know what exercises are best for your knee pain if you don’t know what is causing it? In the case of an acute knee injury where there was a direct impact to the knee, you will want to see a Doctor (MD or Chiropractor) so any structural damage to the area can be ruled out. This is typically done by doing specific tests and potentially following up with an MRI or X-ray of the knee joint.
The video below walks you through the different preliminary exercises to help identify the structures causing pain and discomfort.
Depending on what structures are involved and the extent of the injury, surgery may or may not be the solution. In my practice, for instance, I have had several patients with referrals for surgery as the recommendation which was NOT the case. Not every tear or damage is a surgical case and functional movement rehabilitation combined with PRP injections actually does wonders.
It is good to know that the most common type of knee pain is chronic knee pain which occurs over time and typically is a result of dysfunction or insufficient treatment. I suggest you check out my blog, ” Knee Pain Diagnosis and Treatment ” to understand this more in detail.
Knee Pain Relief
Unfortunately, the number of inactive patients with knee injuries has risen within the last 10 years and the common treatments have been less than optimal; these individuals question the cause of their knee pain and wonder if they have to suffer from knee pain for the rest of their lives, but that is far from being the reality.
If the injury is fairly ‘fresh’ modalities such as Cold Laser and ultrasound to the knee joint decrease inflammation and facilitates the healing process. For both acute and chronic knee issues, some degree of Active Release Technique (ART) to address any soft tissue imbalance contributing to pain and dysfunction is performed. The goal is to get you out of pain as soon as possible to move you to the active phase of treatment to bring the function back to the joint. You see, when you are in pain, your brain can only focus on getting you out of pain because it wants you to have a pleasant day. So it is only until you are out of pain that we can have the full attention of the brain for what comes next.
What makes our knee treatment successful and sets us apart from most other clinics is our focus on the movement patterns that led to your knee issues. What we tend to forget is that when you are in pain, you shift your body to dodge the knee, which means your movement patterns change. When this dysfunctional pattern, which is the only way to reduce the pain, becomes the long-term pattern of movement, you get in trouble! It is so subtle that it is easy to miss; it is not a big limp that is noticeable to everyone!
The only way to understand YOUR dysfunction in movement is through an exam that has to be very strategically performed, looking for these subtle signs and cues. We are talking about Postural Neurology and Functional movement, Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization (DNS) exercises here.
Best Exercises for Knee Pain
The best knee exercises do NOT isolate the knee to stretch or work out. They are gentle exercises that force you to go through movement of the whole body while the ‘spot light’ is on the knee! You see, if movement is a concert, your brain is the conductor, the map of movement (that you are born with which gets detailed the first 2-3 years of your life) is the musical note. The body parts are the musicians and while some songs require all musicians to play, some require some to phase out while others get the spotlight.
I am not listing squat and lunge as my recommended exercises because almost everyone does them wrong. The accuracy of these exercises relies heavily on the position of the lower back, sacroiliac joints, and the whole body which is a whole different blog by itself!
This video shows an example of a knee exercise that is easy to duplicate mechanically but not as easy when done functionally!! The concepts of Developmental Kinesiology are applied in all musculoskeletal conditions so we do not re-invent the wheel! If all babies, regardless of our differences move the same way and follow the same patterns of movement, then we must be programmed to move that way.
Developmental Kinesiology is applying the understanding of proper movement so we can re-walk the path that we all did as babies. Our habits, sedentary lifestyles, overuse injuries, and pain lead to the rewiring of the movement patterns and is the reason why functional movement becomes dysfunctional.
Since the knee never functions alone, the dysfunction resulting in pain may not be isolated to only the knee and typically includes the hip and ankles at least. This is why you want to stretch and strengthen in movement no matter what the cause of the pain is. Here is an example of these exercises using the concepts of Developmental Kinesiology.
You cannot have chronic knee issues without involving the hamstrings. Our sedentary life forces our hamstrings to not be as flexible in its lengthening and shortening and the first step toward dysfunction is presented by the lack of synchrony between the quads and hamstrings. Isolating either group of muscles to stretch is a waste of time! Reaching down to touch the toes is not going to do anything. Instead, you should do what is shown in the video below which btw shows the importance of Biological Breathing and core stabilization in all exercises. Your breath is the least appreciated factor in movement and movement-related issues!
Should You Get a Knee Brace?
Now, one thing I do not understand is when people wear a brace to run and we are not talking about jogging. I understand the training involved when a runner is injured so nothing replaces your mindfulness about your knee, your movement, and your balance when running. When you wear a brace, you are limiting your movement beyond what it needs to be. If you are running like you normally would, you ought to consider taping. Taping is not going to support your knee but brings extra attention (sensory stimulation) from your brain to the area. That means you should NOT push through because you believe in ‘no pain, no gain’!
You ought to be responsible with your decisions and attentive to how your body needs slow but steady training to get rehabilitated properly. Re-injuries come by easily because of the fact that it is exciting to be active and not respect the limitations and boundaries at the beginning! Watch this video to learn more.
I am a huge fan of Proprioceptive Taping to reinforce what we want the brain to specifically pay attention to. Taping is misused and overused but with proper taping methods and focus on the goal, taping is a great way to minimize the amount of injury in active individuals specially.