One of the most effective ways to relieve joint pain is to exercise. Weight-bearing exercise is any exercise that pits your body against the force of gravity, helping to strengthen muscles and keep joints flexible. Though it seems counter-intuitive, staying active and doing weight-bearing exercises can help alleviate knee pain. Weight-bearing exercises also help keep your bones strong, which reduces the risk of osteoporosis. See your doctor for a diagnosis of the cause of your knee pain before your begin an exercise program.
Causes of Knee Pain
Knee pain can result from an acute injury, overuse of the joint or weak supporting muscles. Inflammation of the knee joint resulting from arthritis is also a cause of knee pain. Sudden, severe pain may indicate a serious knee injury, such as a torn ligament. See a doctor if you experience sudden onset of severe pain in your knee. Minor knee pain can result from patellofemoral stress syndrome, also called runner's knee. Runner's knee is an overuse injury, and the pain is caused by inflammation of the knee cap. Iliotibial band syndrome is inflammation of supporting tissue that runs down the outside of the thigh and attaches to the knee. The iliotibial band becomes irritated by repetitive movements that cause the band to rub against the outside of the knee joint. Rest and reducing the frequency or intensity of exercise can help alleviate pain caused by overuse injuries.
Walking is one of the easiest weight-bearing exercises to keep your joints healthy. However, how you walk may be the cause of your knee pain. A study conducted at Stanford University found that knee pain is often caused by the way a person walks. Correcting your gait reduces asymmetrical stress on the knee joint. Overpronation and underpronation of the foot when walking places uneven stress on the knee tendons and cartilage, which can lead to inflammation. You should not attempt to correct your gait without the assistance of a doctor.
Doing weight-bearing exercises that strengthen the muscles of your hip and thigh will help to stabilize the knee joint and alleviate pain. A common cause of knee pain is patellofemoral pain syndrome, or PFPS. This condition causes pain in the front of the knee and can be caused by a misaligned knee cap. A study by researchers at the University of Kentucky found that people suffering from PFPS experienced pain relief by doing weight-bearing exercises that strengthened the quadriceps and hip muscles. Step-downs from a step aerobics platform, half-squats and lunges can help strengthen these muscles.
If you suffer from chronic knee pain, which is not alleviated by walking or other weight bearing exercising, water exercises might be beneficial. Weight-bearing exercises done in a swimming pool work your muscles and joints without placing excess stress on your bad knee. Swimming pool exercises are especially helpful for older people who suffer from knee pain caused by arthritis. Weight-bearing exercises in water about waist deep provides some of the benefits of land exercises, but with less stress on your bad knee joint. Some exercises you can do in shallow water include water aerobics, walking, jumping, squats and lunges.
- Arthritis Today: Exercises to Strengthen the Knee and Relieve Pain
- MayoClinic.com: Knee Pain: Causes
- National Science Foundation: "Movement Retraining" Can Reduce Knee Pain
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Weightbearing Exercise for Women and Girls
- University of Kentucky Medical Center: Outcomes of a Weight-Bearing Rehabilitation Program for Patients Diagnosed With Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
- Human Kinetics: Effectiveness of Water-Based Exercise for Managing Pain Among Frail Elderly Women With Knee Pain
Robin Reichert is a certified nutrition consultant, certified personal trainer and professional writer. She has been studying health and fitness issues for more than 10 years. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of San Francisco and a Master of Science in natural health from Clayton College.