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OCT 26, 2023

7 Exercises to Reduce Knee Pain

Discover 7 effective exercises to reduce knee pain. Strengthen, stretch, and protect your knees for better mobility and comfort

Read time: 5 minutes

For anyone who exercises regularly, knee pain can be a tough reality. Not only the throbbing pain itself but the ongoing aching discomfort that can stop your fitness goals in their tracks. As such, understanding the causes and factors that aggravate this condition are vital in order to fix it.

Common Causes of Knee Pain

Multiple factors can contribute to knee pain. Obviously the knee is a complex joint, and can succumb to various conditions, from rigorous physical activities to the simple wear and tear of daily movement.

  • Aging: leads to increased knee stiffness.
  • Arthritis: causes swelling, inflammation, and a limited range of motion.

  • Dislocated Kneecap: hopefully a rare one but this occurs when the kneecap moves out of position.

  • Iliotibial Band Syndrome: a tightening of the ligament that runs down the outer thigh, causing external knee pain.

  • Ligament Sprains: overstretching of the ligaments in the knee, leading to pain and swelling.

  • ACL Injury: a tear in the anterior cruciate ligament, often seen in athletes who play high-impact sports.

  • Bursitis: inflammation of the small fluid sacs, or bursae, that cushion the outside of the knee joint.

  • Tendinitis: inflammation of the tendons, which can cause pain in the front of the knee.

  • Runner's Knee: a broad term that covers several specific disorders related to overuse injuries in runners.

  • Gout: is arthritis where uric acid crystals accumulate in the joints, causing sharp pain.

When you start to think about the construction of the knee itself - on a purely biological level - it’s hardly surprising how many things can go awry and cause pain. After all, your knee is an intricate web of ligaments, tendons, and cartilage. And each component plays a pivotal role in ensuring smooth motion and stability. But the whole mechanism isn’t without vulnerability. Both sudden and gradual injuries can compromise these structures, leading to acute or chronic pain.

Is Exercise the Key to Knee Pain Relief?

Anyone who has suffered muscular or nerve issues will know one of the key remedies recommended by physical therapists is an emphasis on proper stretching and gentle exercises.

  • Strengthening the muscles surrounding the knee boosts its support, helping endurance.

  • Incorporating flexibility exercises enhances the joint's range of motion, which is often compromised by injury or age.

  • Exercise plays a crucial role in reducing inflammation.

  • Engaging in movement stimulates blood flow, mitigating swelling and aching.

The Top 7 Exercises for Knee Pain

1. Quadriceps Stretch

The front of your thigh, the quadriceps, plays a pivotal role in knee movement. Stretching this muscle group not only enhances flexibility but also improves its support to the knee joint.

Step-by-step guide

  • Stand upright beside a chair for balance.
  • Hold onto the chair with one hand.
  • Using your other hand, grasp your ankle and pull it towards your buttocks.
  • Maintain this stretch for 15-30 seconds.
  • Repeat 2-3 times on each leg.

2. Hamstring Curls

Your hamstrings are located at the back of your thighs, and are instrumental for optimal knee function. Strengthening them can alleviate undue stress on the knee.

Safe techniques to avoid strain

  • Begin by standing straight.
  • Slowly bend one knee, bringing your heel up towards your buttocks.
  • Maintain controlled motion and hold it for a few seconds at the peak.
  • Lower and repeat for a handful of repetitions.

3. Calf Raises

Calves also play a foundational role in knee stability. This is because strong calves counteract unwanted pressures on your knee.

Perfecting your calf raise technique

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Slowly rise onto your toes, lifting the heels off the ground.
  • Lower back down steadily.
  • Aim for three sets of 10-15 raises.

4. Straight Leg Raises

This exercise focuses on building strength without exerting pressure on the knee.

Variations for different fitness levels

  • Lie flat on the floor, one leg bent at the knee and with your foot grounded.
  • Keeping the other leg straight, lift it to the height of the opposite knee.
  • Lower it without letting it touch the floor.
  • Repeat and switch legs.

5. Wall Squats

A strategic exercise, wall squats target multiple leg muscles while ensuring the knee's alignment remains uncompromised.

Gradual progression for maximum benefits

  • Stand with your back against a wall.
  • Slowly slide down, bending the knees, keeping them over the toes.
  • Rise up and repeat.

6. Step-Ups

Step-ups are powerful knee strengtheners and a therapeutic exercise disguised as a daily activity.

Using everyday objects

  • Use a sturdy platform or the first step of a staircase.
  • Step up with one foot, followed by the other, then step down.
  • Repeat, ensuring balanced strength on both sides.

7. Hip Abduction

It may surprise you but your hips and knees are essentially linked. And strengthening the hips can bolster knee stability.

Boos hip stability for knee health

  • Lie on one side with legs straight.
  • Raise the top leg as high as comfortable and lower.
  • Switch sides and repeat.

Including Exercises in Your Daily Routine

When it comes to pain, you can’t half-ass the remedy and a sporadic approach isn’t the answer. So, designing a consistent, knee-friendly leg workout schedule is the key to your success. Listen to your body, adapt your exercises to your current pain level, and ensure steady progress without exacerbation, or causing further damage. The trick is continuous effort rather than hitting it too hard rushing to ‘get back to normal’.

Safety Precautions When Exercising with Knee Pain

It’s easy for gym and health enthusiasts to seek out that pain, to see it as a marker that you’re making progress. Feel the burn, right? Well, not all pain is productive. And recognizing the difference between beneficial discomfort and detrimental pain is paramount. If your exercises cause sharp, persistent pain, you have to consult a medical professional for tailored advice.

Additional Supportive Practices for Knee Pain

Exercises are hugely important but still only one facet of holistic knee health. So here’s some additional practices that can help manage your knee pain:


Sure, the road to reducing knee pain is full of challenges, but the path is navigable with persistence, the right knowledge, and appropriate levels of consistent exercise. By embracing these steps, your journey to enduring relief will be a much smoother one.

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Written by Matthew Stogdon

Matt has been writing for two decades, across print and digital media. He is also an accomplished filmmaker, with several accolades under his belt.

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