The Best Knee Strengthening Exercises to Relieve Pain, According to Expert

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Knee pain is a common ailment among all ages. It can strike young women, as early as teenagers or before, and derail a promising (or at least fun!) athletic career. It can result from chronic exercise and, for example, be a common running injury. The knee problems can also be anatomical or hereditary, or knee pain can gradually become an issue as one ages.

Through my work with my patients, it is more commonly seen with more mature adults due to various forms of arthritis, greatly affecting their quality of life. The most common form of arthritis that seems to result in knee pain is called osteoarthritis (OA), which is a musculoskeletal condition.

Knee pain also affects athletes more frequently due to the numerous strains they put on their bodies day today. There are common ailments such as iliotibial band syndrome, tendonitis and runner’s knee that are frequently heard of, but there are way more issues that can surround this complex joint.

Knee pain is so common, that in the United States alone, it’s the result of about one-third of doctor visits for muscle and bone pain in that area. Let’s dig in to find out why … and even better, find out what knee strengthening exercises you can do to reverse that pain.

Reasons for Knee Pain

There are many common reasons for knee pain, but a 2015 study published in the journal Best Practice & Research Clinical Rheumatology indicates that most are work related or from past injuries. (1) The study states that symptomatic knee osteoarthritis (OA) can be viewed as the end result of a molecular cascade that takes place after certain triggers occur and ultimately results in irreversible damage to the articular cartilage.

The study suggests that while there are multiple causes of knee OA, two have attracted particular attention over recent years: occupation-related knee OA and OA subsequent to a previous knee injury. Studies also report that knee OA is likely to become the eighth most important cause of disability in men and the fourth most important cause of disability in women according to the World Health Organization report on the global burden of disease. Three major physical impairments — such as knee pain, stiffness, and decreased quadriceps strength — are highly associated with knee OA and are believed to contribute to physical disability and progression of the disease. (2)

In general, knee pain is typically caused by two things: arthritis or a sports-related injury.

1. Arthritis

There are several forms of arthritis that affect the knees: osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, reactive arthritis, Lyme disease, lupus, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, and infectious arthritis.

2. Injury

Some of the more common knee injuries are meniscal injuries, anterior cruciate ligament, and posterior cruciate ligament injuries, tendonitis, bursitis, loose bodies, Osgood-Schlatter disease, dislocated kneecap, iliotibial band syndrome, and Plica syndrome. (4)

Knee Anatomy 101

Let’s dig into a little knowledge about the knee joint area. The knee is the joint where the bones of the lower and upper legs meet and thus a ver significant part of our bodies. The knee has a pretty big job because it is what allows us to sit, squat, walk and jump because of its hinge-like feature. While it’s obviously key to sport success, it’s just as key in our daily functions — so it’s no surprise that when the knees hurt, it can affect our daily living.

The knee consists of three bones: the femur, which is the upper leg bone, or thigh bone; the tibia, which is the bone at the front of the lower leg, or shin bone; and the patella which is the thick, triangular bone that sits over the other bones at the front of the knee, also known as the kneecap. Cartilage covers the ends of the bones so that they can move easily against one another as they are being used in addition to aiding in the ability to absorb shock.

Two groups of muscles support the knees. One are the hamstrings, which are the muscles on the back of the thigh. They run from the hip to just below the knee and work to bend the knee. The other are the quadriceps, which are the four muscles on front of the thigh that run from the hip to the knee and straighten the knee from a bent position.

Now that you have a bigger picture of how it all works together, it should make sense that having strong muscles and bones to support the knees can help, and may completely eliminate pain.

NEXT: How to Treat Knee Pain

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