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Cranky Knees? 5 Exercises to Live Pain Free!


GET WHAT YOU KNEE(D)

Cranky knees keeping you from exercising?

Finding it harder to climb stairs , bend down to put on your shoes or walk without being in constant pain?

Thinking you can no longer run, squat, strength train or cycle because of painful knees? 

If so, you are not alone! Frequent knee pain affects nearly 1/3 of the population; making it the second leading cause of chronic pain for all Americans. Since we rely on our legs to take us from here to there, this is a HUGE problem limiting our function, mobility and most importantly, quality of life. 

What is the solution to this common problem you ask? 

Well, like most things, it’s exercise!

What kind of exercise you ask?

Strength training of course!

It’s easy to understand why you might be thinking to yourself – “NO WAY am I going to exercise with all this knee pain- I can barely walk!”.

However, keeping the knee(s) still and immobile can cause them to stiffen up and this my friend, will only trigger MORE pain. Plus, if your knees aren’t mobile, it’s going to become increasingly more difficult to go about your daily business. 

Today’s blog focuses on chronic knee pain so you understand:

  • What’s causing your pain

  • Why You Need to be Exercising

  • 5 Exercises for living PAIN FREE!

By the end of this blog, you will know exactly what you knee(d) to do to rid the pain and live healthy, happy and strong!


WHAT CAUSES KNEE PAIN?

There are many underlying factors when it comes to understanding knee pain. First, let’s talk about medical causes:

  • Arthritis/Gout: inflammation or degeneration of one or more joints. Joint health is important because healthy joints keep our bodies moving freely; ability to walk forward, backward, bend, hinge..

  • ACL injury: injury to a crucial ligament of the knee joint that holds the thighbone and shinbone together (common among athletes).

  • Fractures: caused by falls, accidents or osteoporosis.

  • Torn meniscus: damage or tearing of the cartilage in the knee joint that acts as a shock absorber between bones.

  • Bursitis: inflammation of the small, fluid filled sacs (bursae) that surrounds the knee joint.

  • Patellar tendinitis: inflammation and irritation of one or more of the tendons in the knee joint.

  • Mechanical problems: including dislocated kneecap, hip or foot pain, or iliotibial (IT) band syndrome.

Whether you’ve experienced these or not, it’s no secret how painful and debilitating they can be. There are also several lifestyle factors contributing to knee pain, including:

  • Excess weight: being overweight or obese puts increased stress on the knee joints and also causes accelerated breakdown of the knee joint cartilage; which may lead to arthritis

  • Lack of muscle flexibility or strength: lack of strength in the stabilizing muscles of the knee joint or decreased range of motion of the knee joint itself can lead to increased joint pain.

  • Certain sports or occupations: jobs and/or sports requiring heavy lifting, repetitive movements, excessive jumping, or pivoting may cause stress/overuse of the knee joint.

  • Previous knee injury: a previous knee injury increases the likelihood of having another knee injury.


BENEFITS OF STRENGTH TRAINING

If you’re part of the 25% of Americans suffering from knee pain, you’ve probably heard

  • Don’t do ANY exercise if you have ANY knee pain!

  • You should rest until your knee pain goes away.

  • Don’t exercise if you have arthritic knees.

  • You shouldn’t run or squat if you have knee pain.

Maybe you’re thinking “But …..should I really be strength training /lifting weights if I have knee pain?

It may feel counterintuitive to exercise with knee pain but, keeping as active as possible is of the utmost importance! Whether your knee pain is caused by a medical or lifestyle issue, there is strong, scientific evidence to support strength training is actually good for the knees:

  • Strength training improveS joint cartilage instead of breaking it down. Unlike cardio, strength training is an effective tool for helping muscles groups become stronger so you move better. Cardio-based activities like running overtime can lead to the breakdown of ligaments and joints since its the same, repetitious movement.

  • Strength training preventS arthritis or the continued breakdown of the cartilage in the knee joint if you already have arthritis. 

  • Choosing the right types of exercise easeS knee pain and makeS you fitter and healthier in the long run. Strength training not only helps your body move better, it is the most effective way to decrease body fat and take unnecessary stress and strain off joints and ligaments.

  • Strength training improves range of motion and mobility so your knee moves the way it should while engaging all the right muscles.

Having a medical professional diagnosis which knee problem you have is detrimental in choosing which exercise is best for you. Following an acute knee injury or flare up, it is recommended to rest the joint for 48-72 hours. However, following that initial rest period, you may start to exercise and move the joint with care to prevent additional stiffness or decreased range of motion.

A good rule of thumb when it comes to exercise and knee pain is to listen to your body and not push through pain.  Your body is a great indicator of when you should stop or slow down an exercise.  However, we are big advocates of working AROUND pain and doing what you can do, not what you can’t!

This is why your coaches at Results Fitness have created a safe and effective space for you to properly strength train. You get the hands on coaching you need by working with trained, certified professionals so you are always doing each movement correctly and know exactly what to do, especially when dealing with chronic pain issues.


TOP 5 EXERCISES TO LIVE PAIN FREE!

Ready to start feeling better, living pain free and getting back to what you enjoy doing?

Now that we’ve covered all the bases as to why you may be experiencing knee pain, let’s get down to the specific exercises we use at Results Fitness to prevent, manage and ease knee pain.

It starts with good knee joint health – huh?!

Although the pain you are experiencing is in the knee joint itself, it may be caused by an imbalance in strength and/or flexibility of the surrounding muscles/joints of your lower extremity.  With that in mind, it is crucial for your knee joint health to improve the strength and mobility of your quadriceps (front thigh muscles), hamstrings (back thigh muscles), glutes (butt muscles), adductors (inner thigh muscles), and abductors (outer thigh muscles/calves). 

Strengthening the muscles that surround your knee joint can help increase stability and therefore decrease pain.  And, here are the 5 best exercises we use at Results Fitness to prevent, manage and ease the pain.

  1. Banded Lateral Walks and Monster Walks:  Exercise where you are literally walking forward and backward or laterally (side to side). By adding a resistance band above the knees or ankles during these walks, the butt and hip muscles are specifically activated to decrease strain on the knee joint.

  2. Kettlebell Swing: Exercise involving hinging back and forward with a weight and thus is effective for targeting and strengthening glutes (butt) and hamstrings (back of legs) without putting stress and strain on the knee joint itself. 

  3. Deadlifts and RDL’s: Similiar-ish yet different:

    -Deadlifts: Think squat! holding weights at side and sitting/squatting down.

    -RDL’s: Think hip hinge: Holding weights down and pushing hips & butt straight back

    Both activate the glutes and hamstrings and provides stability to the knee joint by promoting strength in the hips (butt & hamstrings). Single leg deadlifts also add an extra stability challenge requiring all core, hip and hamstring muscles to work extra hard to maintain balance.

  4. Glute Bridge: During this exercise, you lay on your back, with knees bent and feet planted flat on the ground. You then push down in to the ground with your feet as you raise and lower your hips up and back down. Like the kettlebell swing, another great exercise targeting the entire hip and butt area without putting pressure on the knee joint itself.

  5. Step Ups:  Exercise mimicking every day activities like stepping up stairs or into the shower, and is used for strengthening the quadricep muscles (front thigh muscles) and only requires a few inches to be effective.

    If you’re a beginner, start with a small box of 6 inches and then gradually work up to a taller box as range of motion improves and the pain decreases. You step up with both feet, then back down. This movement provides kneecap (patellar) stability and strength.  This up and down motion of the knee joint is one we encounter almost daily and is crucial to our knee health. 


HOW TO GET STARTED

Now that you’re considering strength training to help reduce and prevent knee pain, here are a few do’s and don’ts for getting started today:

  • DON’T rest too much! Too much rest can cause muscle weakness and may increase knee pain. It’s imperative to stay consistent 2-4 x per week when strength training to build up strength in the muscles and practice those movement patterns!

  • DO exercise!  Exercise (such as strength training) that strengthens the muscles surrounding your knee joint and improve flexibility have been proven to reduce knee pain. 

  • DO use RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) as needed following an acute injury or flare up. Following that initial 48–72-hour time period of rest, start with gentle movement/range of motion and weight bearing activities to decrease pain and prevent stiffness. 

  • DON’T overlook your weight.  Losing weight reduces the stress on your knee.  It is not imperative to reach your “ideal” weight to see results.  Small changes will yield a big impact.

  • DON’T jar your joints.  Avoid high-impact exercises such as sprinting, jumping or deep squats/lunges that put a lot of stress on the knee.  These exercises can worsen knee pain or cause injury if not done correctly. 

  • DO get expert advice.  If your knee pain is new, have a doctor check it out.  It is best to know what you are dealing with to prevent further injury/pain.

  • DO listen to your body.  If an exercise is increasing knee pain, stop the exercise and/or ask a coach/personal trainer how to modify the exercise to decrease pain while still improving range of motion and strength. 

If you have questions or, need help getting started so you feel safe exercising, schedule your FREE strategy session and talk to one of our exepert coaches to learn more about how we can work together to get you back to living pain free!

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