A lack of stretching can cause knee pain and possibly injury to your knees. Since it is not possible to stretch the actual knee, you must stretch the muscles and tendons surrounding the knee to reduce and prevent pain. Not stretching leg muscles such as the quadriceps and hamstrings can lead to sprains and other painful knee disorders. A commitment to stretching and muscle strengthening exercises can offset injuries and knee soreness.
What Not Stretching Can Do
A lack of stretching can cause damage to muscles of the legs and back, as well as injury to the vulnerable tissues surrounding the knees. Not stretching can also interfere with the flexibility of your leg, making it difficult and painful to bend, jump and even walk.
A knee disorder such as tendinitis occurs when the tendons surrounding the knee become inflamed or torn. Stress to the area caused by a sports injury, fall or blow to the knee can cause tendinitis, as can failure to properly stretch the legs before exercising. Damage to the anterior cruciate ligament, commonly known as the ACL, can also result from a lack of stretching. A torn ACL causes severe knee pain and often requires surgical repair.
Benefits of Stretching
Tight muscles can obstruct the range of motion of the knees. Quadriceps, for example, affect the placement of the knee cap. Hamstring muscles are responsible for bending the knees. Together, these muscle groups allow your knees to extend and contract. Stretching your quadriceps and hamstrings can increase flexibility and lengthen your muscles, reducing the risk of pain and injury to your knees.
Perform a basic hamstring stretch by standing straight with feet flat on the floor. Without bending your knees, slowly bend at the waist keeping your back flat and try to touch your toes with your fingers. Use a wall for support if necessary. Stretch the quadriceps by lying face down on the floor. Bend your leg at the knee and bring your heel to your bottom. Hold each stretch between 10 and 30 seconds for maximum benefit.
Stretching and warming up your muscles prior to exercising can prevent knee pain. A brisk walk can increase blood circulation and prepare your knees for physical activity. Strengthening your low back and leg muscles can also thwart knee pain. According to MayoClinic.com, “weak muscles are a leading cause of knee injuries.” The quadriceps and hamstrings support the knees. Exercises such as squats and lunges strengthen these muscles as well as improve the mobility and movement of the legs and knees.
Reducing pain after a knee injury takes time. Aside from stretching, home remedies often include rest, icing the affected area and elevation of the knee. Stop doing whatever led to the injury and allow it to heal. Place an ice pack on your knee and elevate it to reduce inflammation and swelling. Considerable pain that doesn't go away after a period of rest could mean you need to see a health care professional. Serious injuries may require a partial or total knee replacement or outpatient surgery to repair damage to the knee.
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