Knee joints take the brunt of our daily activity, from running to ski trips to regular daily routines — even inactivity damages the knees. All that wear and tear hurts.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 14 million Americans live with chronic joint pain and the knees are a common problem spot. When you catch the onset of soreness in your knees early, you can fend off more serious injuries and get moving again.
That’s why stretching, weight-training and therapeutic movements are so important.
There are some simple stretches and common practices that can help prevent and relieve knee pain. You can do many of them in your own home and your knees will be the bee’s knees in no time! Listed below are eight of the most recommended ways to reduce or prevent knee pain.
1. Use a foam roller
Knee pain often stems from tight muscles around the joint. When the iliotibial band and the thigh muscles right above the knee tighten, they can pull the knee out of alignment, causing pain. Using a foam roller on the outer thigh muscles releases the tension and provides relief.
2. Get a massage
If your foam roller doesn’t hit the right tight spots, a good next step is a professional sports massage. When you go in for your appointment, let the therapist know about your knee pain and ask them to pinpoint and release areas of tightness.
If you pay close attention, you can learn where the knots are and next time you can self-massage with your foam roller or have someone else help you work out the stiffness.
3. Get moving
Inactivity is a common reason so many aging adults suffer from knee pain — another is being overweight, since more pounds mean more stress on your joints and can lead to osteoarthritis. Luckily, increased exercise can help fix both of those causes!
4. Stretch your calves
Tight calf muscles put added stress on the back of the knee and can contribute to pain in the joint. Physical therapist Dr. Dan Giordano, co-founder of Bespoke Treatments Physical Therapy, told Self that a simple way to release them is to stand facing a wall with one leg straight behind you and the other slightly bent in front of you. Keep your back heel on the ground and place your hands on the wall and push against it.
5. Use a ball to stretch
According to Lauren Williams, a certified personal trainer and head coach at New York City’s athletic-based training studio Tone House, you can release tight calves and hamstrings simultaneously using a lacrosse ball or any similarly sized ball, like a tennis ball or baseball. While sitting on the ground, bend one knee and place the ball between your calf and your hamstring. Then, pull your shin closer to compress the ball.
6. Stretch your hamstrings
It’s especially important to keep hamstrings loose and mobile, Giordano told Self when sharing tips for easing knee pain. In fact, strained hamstrings often lead to knee injuries. There are plenty of ways to stretch your hamstrings. Find one that feels comfortable to you and keep them loose.
7. Strengthen your quads
According to a health report from Harvard Medical School, “strong quadriceps can take over the shock-absorbing role usually played by the meniscus or cartilage in the knee.” It’s also important to strengthen the muscles around the knees equally, so they are balanced and hold the joint in the correct position. An easy move to try at home is a sitting or prone leg lift with or without added ankle weights.
8. Wear compression gear
You can improve your warm up and recovery with high-tech compression clothing, like pieces made by brands like 2XU, Under Armour and others. “Graduated compression helps your muscles warm up faster, reducing the opportunity for micro ligament tears, pulled muscles and delayed onset muscle soreness,” said Kyle Martin, 2XU’s director of marketing and communications.
Additionally, Martin said that after exercising, “graduated compression helps get the maximum amount of blood flow to damaged muscles and ligaments. This removes lactic acid buildup from the muscles and allows for maximum repair efficiency.” As a result you minimize the impact of intense workouts on your knees.