Knee pain is not just unpleasant—it can also be quite debilitating. Active people who suffer from knee pain often find that their lives change dramatically—no more hiking, biking, or jogging. Tennis and soccer are out. But it often doesn’t have to be this way. Luckily, whether it is arthritis, an injury, a recent surgery, or a muscle imbalance that is causing your knee pain, there are ways to make your knees stronger and reduce the pain. Here are the top five ways to strengthen your knees:
1) If you’re suffering from undiagnosed knee pain, consult with a qualified healthcare professional before starting any kind of exercise program. This seems obvious, but it is for a very good reason. Chiropractors are experts at diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal conditions, including knee problems. Depending on your situation, a chiropractor may customize a treatment plan tailored to your needs and prescribe specific exercises for you to do when you’re at home. Remember—the wrong exercise program may do more harm than good!
2) Exercise regularly following the instructions your chiropractor or other healthcare provider gave to you. Lower-impact exercise, done correctly and regularly, is incredibly effective when it comes to strengthening your knees and relieving pain. In fact, the New England Journal of Medicine recently published new research suggesting that exercise and physical therapy are as effective as surgery for relief from chronic knee pain related to arthritis. Given that knee arthritis is the single greatest cause of chronic disability among U.S. adults age 65 and older, that’s quite a significant finding.
As for the exercises themselves, many people with knee pain find it is best to also strengthen the gluteus maximus. When your hip muscles are weak, you are at a greater risk for knee injuries, especially anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears. Other common knee-strengthening exercises include:
- Working out the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes by doing lunges, step-ups, and squats.
- Jumping rope. Just make sure to do it correctly—it helps to study your form in a mirror to make sure you are landing with bent knees. Landing with straight knees will only exacerbate your knee pain by putting too much pressure on the joints.
- Doing recreational activities that build full-body muscle tone, such as yoga and swimming.
Remember, though, that some very targeted exercises can place a large amount of stress on knee joints. Leg extensions are just one possible example. Be sure to talk with your chiropractor before adding these to your workout. Depending on your condition, he or she may advise you to avoid or limit certain types of exercises.
3) Change your eating habits. There are a number of healthful foods that can help you with knee pain. For example, calcium-rich foods such as milk, cheese, yogurt, leafy greens, and almonds are great for helping prevent osteoporosis and strengthening your bones, which will help with knee pain. You should also eat plenty of foods high in vitamin E, such as spinach, broccoli, peanuts, mango and kiwi. Vitamin E is believed to obstruct enzymes that break down the cartilage in the joints. Anti-inflammatory foods also reduce swelling and pain in the knees, so include fish, flax seeds, olive oil, avocados, and whole fruits and vegetables in your diet to keep your knees strong.
4) Drink plenty of water. Water will help provide cushioning to your joints which in turn helps reduce pain. Drink at least half of your body weight in ounces daily. Also, when exercising, always make sure to bring clean water with you to avoid dehydration.
5) Wear the right shoes. Skip the heels and any other shoe that causes pain. In fact, it is a very good idea to get a professional’s opinion about what shoes will be the best for your feet and knees. Ensure that your athletic shoes provide plenty of support—old shoes are infamous for causing or aggravating knee pain.