My knees ache!
Do your knees ache? Don’t avoid exercise!
Whatever the cause, the muscles around the knee (any joint for that matter) help keep it stable, protect it from injury and, if working properly keep the bones moving in the right way.
There can be numerous causes of painful knees and the treatment will obviously depend on the cause. For example, have you got an injury or arthritis? But in most circumstances exercise can help. Here are a few generic things to do and not do:
1. Avoid exercises that make your pain worse. You may have some damage to the lining of the joint and in this case maybe continuous impact such as running makes your knee joint swell and ache afterwards. You can replace this exercise with walking, perhaps uphill and work harder still by cycling, which is much less impact.
2. Work the muscles. Resistance training is important. You need to work the front and the back of the thigh. If body-weight exercises such as leg-press and squats are painful, replace these for open chain exercise such as knee extensions and knee flexions. This is where you are seated (or lying in some cases) and resistance is applied when to bend and straighten your knees. Try starting with 3 sets of 10 repetitions, making sure you pick a weight that’s difficult to lift 10 times (i.e. it’s too heavy by the end of the set)
3. Be creative. Unable to visit the gym? Start with body-weight squats and lunges, if not too painful. Stand side on to a chair (or something similar) so that you can hold on to the frame to support yourself squat down to as far as is comfortable and return to the start. Repeat this 10 times. AS you get better, you can squat deeper, squat one-legged or wear a small rucksack and fill it with heavy items such as books to make the exercise harder.
4. Don’t forget to stretch. If you’ve got painful knees the tendency is to want to keep them bent. In most cases this is a bad idea. In this position, the knee cap will continually be pressed against your thigh bone. This can make your knees ache more. Sit on the floor with both legs out straight in form of you. Do the backs of both knees touch the floor? If not try push your knees down using your leg muscles.
Stretch for the quadriceps: lying on your front with both legs out behind you, slowly bend one knee towards your bum. Hook a towel around your ankle so that you can pull on it to bring your heel further towards your bum. Stop pulling as you feel the stretch. Stretch for 20 seconds 3 times, with a rest in between.
A stretch for the hamstrings: put your foot up on a chair, making sure your knee is fully straight. Slowly bind forward at the hips until you feel the stretch at the back of the leg.
5. Ice. Regardless of the condition, icing the area helps with pain and swelling. If you don’t have an ice pack, wrap a bag of peas in a damp tea-towel and place it over the sore area. If you can, place a bit of pressure on the pack too so that it’s not just resting on your knee. Better still put your feet up too so that your leg is straight as this will help with reducing swelling. Keep the ice pack on for 20 minutes and you can repeat this every 2 hours if necessary.
So, once you’ve got the all clear from your doctor, start working those muscles; they’re there for a reason. Don’t let them waste away.