5 Stretches That Will Make Your Knee Pain Go Away
The knee is one of the most complex joints in the body, so it’s no wonder pain in that area, which happens to 20 percent of us according to the American Academy of Pain Medicine, can really set you back – especially if you’re a runner.
However, while you may be tempted to cite your knee pain as a good reason to take some time off, it’s actually important to keep moving, says Donna Williams, director of rehabilitation for Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush. If your go-to exercises make your pain worse, Williams and Rachel Straub, an exercise physiologist and certified strength and conditioning specialist, suggest the following stretches to help soothe your sore knees.
Supine Hamstring Stretch
Thanks to the fact that your hamstrings run from your hips to your knees and actually cross your knees, getting more flexible in these large muscles can help ease knee pain, says Williams. Just keep in mind that it’s important to make sure your spine is stable in order to get the most effective stretch, says Williams. “If your spine isn’t stable, it’s more likely you’ll stretch other leg muscles.”
To ensure your spine remains unchanged as you stretch your hamstrings, lie on your back in front of a doorway with your hips in line with the entryway. Keeping your left leg straight out in front of you, place your straight right leg up on door jam, keeping a small bend in your right knee. Inch your way forward for a deeper stretch or back if you need less sensation. Stay here for 10 to 15 slow, deep breaths, and then switch sides. If you can’t find a quiet doorway, loop a belt or yoga strap around the ball of your foot, which will give you more of a stretch across the entire back of the leg.
Standing Calf Stretch
When your calves are tight, it can lead to an inward movement of the knees, says Straub, which can cause pain. Stand on the edge of a curb or step and place your left foot on the ground, keeping the ball of your right foot on the step. Allow the right heel to drop below the step and hold here for 30 seconds, then switch sides. You can also place both feet on the curb, step, or a calf machine (pictured) and drop both heels at the same time. Just be sure to hold on to something in front of you if you choose this version.
Hip Flexor and Quad Stretch
When you’re in pain, doing the go-to standing quad stretch (you know, the one where you hold onto one ankle and pull it close to your glutes) can be really challenging, if not impossible, says Williams. “If bending your knee is difficult, this stretch can be really effective,” she says. Lie on the floor or a bed on your stomach, and loop a belt or yoga strap around your right foot, holding either side with each hand. Gently pull the belt or strap so your heel moves toward your butt. When you feel a stretch in your hip flexor and quadriceps, hold for 30 seconds, and then repeat on the other side.
IT Band Foam Roller
It’s incredibly common for the illiotibial band – the ligament that runs along the outside of the thigh, from the hip to the shin – to become tight and inflamed, which in turn can lead to knee pain. The best way to stretch it out is to use a foam roller on the whole outer thigh area, says Williams.
Lie on your right side and place the foam roller just below your right hip. Cross your left leg over and place it on the ground in front of you. Keeping your right hand or forearm on the ground, move your left foot up to roll down the side of your right thigh, stopping when the foam roller is just above your right knee; then move your left foot down, coming back to the starting position. Repeat on the other leg.
Figure Four Glute Stretch
Stretching the muscles that rotate the hips (specifically, the glutes and piriformis) can have a positive domino effect on the knees, says Williams. Her favourite way to stretch these often overlooked muscles is to do a Figure Four stretch: Lie on your back with your feet on the floor, then cross your right ankle over your left knee and clasp your hands behind your left thigh. Slowly and gently pull your left knee toward your chest. Repeat on the other side.
The article 5 Stretches That Will Make Your Knee Pain Go Away originally appeared on Prevention.