Exercising with a knee injury can be a very tricky situation. Every step, every bounce, it all hurts. Exercising with knee pain can be so difficult that you stop altogether and give up.
This is a common scenario for a lot of people. Whether you injured your knee playing a sport, or you slipped and fell, there is a way that you can continue to exercise even if you have knee pain.
Let’s first talk a little bit about the knee and how it functions. The knee’s main function is to flex and extend (bend and straighten). Other than that it really doesn’t move in any other way.
Many injuries happen when the knee does something other than bend. For instance, if it rotates a little while you are changing direction, you can tear your ACL.
Or if you slip on water and your knee rotates you could tear your meniscus. There’s not too much good that can happen when you have a very mobile knee.
To keep from having a mobile knee, we want to strengthen the hips and create a very mobile ankle. The hips control where the knee is going so if you have strong hips, you have greater control of the knee.
The ankle bends a lot with the knee. Once the ankle can’t move anymore where are you going to get more range of motion? The knee. That is adding more motion in the knee and can cause knee pain.
Knee pain can also be from your body weight. Most overweight people have knee pain because their knee just can’t handle the load that is being placed on it every day.
Sometimes you don’t have to do any kind of knee rehab. All you need to do is lose a few pounds and your knee pain goes right away.
So, now that we know a little more about how the knee functions, let's look at some exercises you can do where there isn’t a lot of knee emphasis.
First, the easiest exercise program you can do is only exercise your upper body. You can do the bench press, or curls, or anything really where you can sit or lay down and your knee isn’t supporting your body weight.
Even though you are just working out the upper body, you can still get the benefits of strength gains and cardiovascular benefits. This is all good for you. You shouldn’t just sit on the couch and get fat because you can’t walk very well.
Now let's say you want to do more cardio work, but you can’t run on the treadmill with knee pain. Duh! But what you can do is use an exercise bike that has the arms that move and just don’t pedal. Now you get a great cardiovascular workout and you aren’t using your legs at all.
The exercise bike is a lot harder than you think. There’s also another piece of equipment called the SciFit. It is a machine that is specifically an upper body cardio workout.
You can increase and decrease the tension to make it easier or harder and really get your workout going.
What if your knee hurts but it’s not completely useless. You can start doing what are called hip dominant exercises. These are exercises where there’s not a lot of motion going through the knee joint.
Examples of these exercises would be like the straight leg deadlift, hip thruster, or a kettlebell swing. These are all putting more emphasis on the hip and knee just goes along for the ride.
By doing these exercises and strengthening the hip, it usually will help with knee pain. Since the knee can’t do much except for bend, it relies on the hip since the hip can move very freely.
When you have a stronger more functional hip, knee pain usually decreases. Remember that this goes the same way with the ankle. If you have a stiff ankle, the knee will usually have to work harder when you move. So make sure you free up that ankle and make sure it’s moving properly.
Here is an example of an ankle mobilization exercise.
Try out some of these exercises and see if they work for you. Everything depends on how bad your injury is. If you are in a cast, just do the upper body or SciFit program. If you can still move around pretty well, then you need to get moving.
Keeping up with an exercise program is very good for any joint that has pain. As they say “Motion is lotion”. So, get moving!
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