Exercising With Knee Pain: You Still Can!

Pain is a very common deterrent from exercising.

But sometimes the best way to treat the pain is to get moving, just in the right way. Knee pain is a very common injury I treat and it shows up in a variety of different forms and in a variety of different people. So what I want to cover here are some ways to make sure you don’t continue to aggravate an injury or create a new injury and give you a few things you can do whether you have knee pain or not to help you keep moving!

Related: The Most Important Exercise You Can Do

The first recommendation for those with knee pain is to keep moving but in a way that does not produce too much force on the knees. Walking is good but too much of it could certainly aggravate a knee injury because it is a weight bearing joint. Biking or using an elliptical are great alternatives. They offer a good aerobic workout that may be better than walking and provide a lot less impact. Water based exercise is great as well. The properties of water make it a great way to still get a good workout without pounding on your knees. You can vary how much weight you put on your joints by going deeper (less weight) or staying shallower (more weight). You can use things like foam dumbbells or floats for upper extremity resistance due the viscosity of the water. Flippers work for adding resistance to the legs. Working back to land exercise is important; however, if knee pain persists call your PT and we can help get you going again!

Related: Pool Workout for Beginners

If you are trying to prevent knee injury while working out there are a few things to avoid and a few specific areas to work on. If you are doing a lot of what we would call “closed chain” exercise, your feet are on the ground, avoid letting your knees travel over your toes; good examples are a squat or a lunge. In a squat, sit your hips back like you are reaching for a chair while keeping your chest up to avoid letting the knees travel over the toes. In a lunge, make sure you are stepping back far enough and keeping your shin vertical over the ankle and pushing up through the heel to activate the quadriceps and glutes to get everything you can out of the movement.

Related: How Dry Needling Can Help Knee Pain

I also find people with knee pain tend to have some weakness around the hips, putting excessive stress on the knees. Strengthening these muscles will help with the mechanics in your lower extremities when you are up and moving around. Here are a few exercises to help with that:

  • Clamshells:

Make sure your hips don’t roll one way or another. Less motion is more here.

  • Monster Walks:

You can do this exercise without a band. Make sure you stay low and keep your toes pointing straight ahead.

  • Glute Sets:

Simply squeeze your butt. I have a lot of patients who are strong when they use multiple muscle groups together during a movement but an individual muscle is weak and not activating well. Get these muscles working and that movement will get better and stronger.

  • Sit to Stands:

Keep your belly tight. Shift your weight forward. Push through the heels to help you stand up. This is like a squat with a pause on the way down. You can progress to squats and lunges if this gets too easy.

  • Squats:

This is all about form. Keep the chest up. Sit the butt back without arching your back and don’t let the knees drift forward.

Again, if you have persistent knee pain make sure you contact a physical therapist so they can evaluate you and make sure you are addressing the right areas to treat the knee pain effectively. Don’t forget to keep moving and use these tools to help you out along the way!

Best Version of Me Goal Update:

I am going to be frank here, I have only met a few of my goals. My weight has stayed about the same which is a good thing, but it isn’t where I want to be. I have a couple of minor medical issues causing some problems that kept me from exercising as much as I wanted. However, that was only over 2 of the last 5 weeks, I have no excuse for not getting 4-5 days in the other weeks. I usually get about 3 but that is not enough. I am going to be more disciplined this week and have started using the My Fitness Pal app. This is not a product endorsement but it is a great app that I have used before and has helped me be successful. This will really help me boost my nutrition goals, take in the right amount of calories, and show me how my activity and exercise benefits my caloric intake. I just have to keep it up.

I am not adjusting my goals at this point; I am using this moment to regroup and start moving forward. I know that if my nutrition habits continue, and even improve, while working out 40-60 minutes 4-5 times a week I can make the changes I am looking for to meet my weight loss goals.

Please follow along and interact on our Facebook group. There are some great discussions there and everyone participating is doing a great job motivating each other to keep us all going. All of us are taking this a day at a time and that is the best way to get to that end goal.

By Phil Finemore, PT, DPT

Back in Motion® Physical Therapy – Gorham, Maine