Are you one of the millions of Americans who suffer from chronic knee pain? Knee pain is one of the most common complaints among patients seeing their doctors for chronic pain conditions. And more often than not, doctors recommend anti-inflammatories and pain medications. Growing numbers of doctors are now recommending exercise as well.
According to WebMD, knee pain is so common because the knee is one of the “largest and most complex joints in the body.” We put tremendous stress on our knees every time we stand and walk. That stress only increases when we do things like walking up and down stairs.
Chronic knee pain can make already stressed joints even more uncomfortable. It is often caused by osteoarthritis and other age-related conditions, but even young people can experience chronic knee pain. So what can a person do? The pain management experts at Lone Star Pain Medicine in Weatherford, Texas recommend regular exercise, in addition to seeing a doctor.
Exercising Painful Joints
Exercise is good for the body in general. Where joint pain is concerned, exercise is intentionally designed to work those joints so as to strengthen surrounding muscle tissue, cartilage, and even tendons and ligaments. Building strength provides more support for joints, thereby reducing pain.
Consider a patient dealing with osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs because of a breakdown in joint cartilage. As cartilage is lost, the bones of the joint grind on one another. This is what causes the pain. If the muscles, ligaments, and tendons are weak, they do not provide enough support for the knee. This allows the bones to grind together even more aggressively.
Strengthening the muscles, ligaments, and tendons will help keep the bones apart. Do that and the bones will not grind on one another as much. The end result is less pain.
Exercise and Overall Health
Another thing we know about exercise, generally speaking, is that it promotes good health from head to toe. A regularly exercised body is one that fights sickness and disease more effectively. Regular exercise equips the body to deal with pain and discomfort more effectively. That said, general exercise not necessarily related to painful and stiff joints can still help alleviate chronic pain.
For someone with chronic knee pain, an exercise like indoor cycling can do wonders. Low-impact cycling helps to strengthen knee joints as well as toning the thighs and calves. And because indoor cycling is designed to be cardio heavy, you get the added health benefits of working your heart. A healthy heart improves cardiovascular function, thereby making it easier for the body to address the underlying causes of pain.
Exercises Specific to the Knees
Lone Star Pain Medicine doctors tend to recommend very specific exercises to patients suffering from chronic knee pain. The exercises are designed to increase mobility and simultaneously strengthen the joints. Here is a short list of such exercise, all of which can be found online complete with illustrations:
- Clamshells – An exercise done lying on the side with the hips stacked and the knees bent.
- Straight Leg Lifts – Performed while lying on the back with one leg straight and the other at a 90° angle.
- Sit-Stands – An exercise utilizing a chair to repetitively stand up and sit down.
- Step-Ups – An exercise involving stepping onto a low platform and letting one leg dangle.
- Glute Bridges – Performed while lying on the back with both legs bent and feet on the floor.
Exercise alone might not be enough to alleviate chronic knee pain. But it can be a big help, especially when combined with anti-inflammatory and pain medications.