Being weak in the knees might be a common cliche for those moments that take our breath away, but having weak knees is not a recommendation for anyone looking to live a healthy lifestyle. Knee pain can be debilitating and having weak muscles around the knees can exacerbate that pain. That pain can be managed with a series of exercises.
Where knee pain originates
In a study published in the journal BMC Musculoskeletal Disorder, researchers reveal that knee pain is the most common cause of disability in adults over 50 years of age. Nearly 25% of adults 50 and over have knee pain, with knee osteoarthritis at the root of the pain. Knee pain can also come from risks due to body mass index as well as injuries and alignment issues.
This study looked at knee pain and the treatments that people have tried to relieve it. They also looked at strength of the surrounding muscles including the quadriceps and hip abductors. They also looked at balance sway and postural gait. The study included surveys and was conducted over the course of three years. This study helped researchers recognize subgroups that could benefit from specialized treatment.
People who struggle with knee pain from osteoarthritis have found relief from exercises. In a study published in Open Access Rheumatology: Research and Reviews, researchers recognize that although there is “increased public awareness of the importance of exercise and physical activity, only 27.8% of those with knee OA engage in regular moderate or vigorous physical activity.”
While there are several conservative treatment methods for treating knee pain due to osteoarthritis, the most common recommendation is exercise – specifically those that strengthen the muscles around the knee as well as “low-impact aerobic exercise, neuromuscular education, and physical activity” along with “aerobic and/or resistance land-based exercise as well as aquatic exercise” and “regular aerobic, strengthening, and range-of-motion exercise.” At our chiropractic office, Anchorage’s Better Health Chiropractic, we recommend these exercises, too.
Participants in the study exercised in all of the recommended ways. Researchers found that all of these recommended forms of exercise were beneficial in strengthening the knee and reducing pain. The exercises used in this study included
• stationary cycling
• moderately intense walking
• resistance training
• agility training
• high and slow speed training
• balance training and strength training
• hatha yoga
• tai chi
• individualized programs
The best knee strengthening exercises come in several forms. With repeated findings in research studies, a mixed bag of exercises is best for relieving pain. One of the best exercises for knee pain is hatha yoga. In a study published in the International Journal for Preventative Medicine, researchers found that hatha yoga stretches helped reduce pain for those who had morning stiffness and anxiety from their knee pain. Adding yoga to the treatment plan helped more than physical therapy on its own.
The yoga sessions that were used include 15 minutes of warming up and cooling down with the main postures in between. Meditation and breathwork were also included. The poses were selected based on individual people’s abilities and needs. When compared to the results of the control group, which just received physical therapy, the experimental group that received physical therapy and yoga therapy saw a marked reduction in pain.
Yoga exercises that strengthen the knee
There are several hatha yoga exercises that are good for reducing knee pain. One of those is a basic standing posture. While standing straight, you simply engage the quad muscles and abdominal muscles. When you engage the quads, you will feel the kneecaps lift up. Do not hyperextend the knee, simply engage the knee muscles. Adding the abdominal muscles to this exercise will help strengthen the core.
Another good knee strengthening pose is chair pose. Stand up straight with the feet facing forward about six inches apart from each other. Then, bend the knees and sit back as if you are sitting in a chair. Your arms can rest on your thighs until you build strength. Then, you can hold your arms straight out, forward from the shoulders. Or, you can lift them over your head. Keep the arms shoulder distance apart from each other.
Chair pose on your toes
You can also try a variation of chair that involves standing on your toes. This is a good option to strengthen all areas of the legs. Again, stand up straight with the feet six inches apart. Then, come on to your toes – as high as possible. Then, bend the knees and stay up on the toes. Try to lower your rear end so it is parallel with the knees without dropping below the knees. Hold the arms straight forward out from the shoulders. Hold the pose for five inhales and exhales before coming up.
There is one more standing exercise that will help relieve pain in the knees: eagle pose. This is a pose that builds strength and balance. You can do it with a chair or a wall for support, or try it without. Stand with the feet on the floor and the knees slightly bent. Then, lift the right leg and cross it over the left. If you can balance, cross the arms with the right arm on the bottom. Stand for five inhales and exhales. Then, switch. There are several ways to make this exercise more difficult, including wrapping the lifted foot around the calf, bending the standing leg deeply, and holding the pose for longer amounts of time.
Yoga poses that strengthen the knee can also be done while laying down on your back. Bridge pose strengthens the knee and does not require any balance. While laying on your back, bend your knees, keeping your feet about six inches apart. You will know you have a deep enough bend if you can touch your heels with your fingertips while your arms are extended along the sides of the body. With the arms along the sides of the body, lift the rear end off the ground and keep the feet flat on the floor. Squeeze your shoulders together to support the upper back and neck. Squeeze your glutes and lift the legs, feeling a stretch along the quad muscles. Hold for a few breaths, then lower down.
Dr. Brent Wells, D.C. founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in Alaska in 1998 and has been a chiropractor for over 20 years. His practice has treated thousands of patients from different health problems using various services designed to help give you long-lasting relief.
Dr. Wells is also the author of over 700 online health articles that have been featured on sites such as Dr. Axe and Lifehack. He is a proud member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians. He continues his education to remain active and updated in all studies related to neurology, physical rehab, biomechanics, spine conditions, brain injury trauma, and more.