The knee is a complex joint, flexing and extending as you walk, dance, swim or perform any activity that involves moving your lower body. Three bones -- the femur, tibia and patella -- and two large muscles operate the knee. The quadriceps on the front of your thigh make it possible for you to extend your leg. Hamstring muscles in the back of your thigh attach to your tibia bone in the back of your knee and enable your knee to flex or bend. Smaller muscles in the front of your hips make it possible to lift your knees. Use stretching techniques to keep your knees flexible for pain-free flexion and extension.
Stretch your hamstring muscles in various positions, bending from your waist while keeping your spine straight. Standing stretches include toe touches and leg-extension-while-leaning-forward stretches. Contract your quad muscles for stability while doing toe touches. Perform the leaning stretch by extending your left leg while bending your right knee. Lean forward approximately 45 degrees. Rest your hands on top of each other at the top of your left thigh and flex your toes upward. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds. Do sitting hamstring stretches on the floor. With your legs together and your toes pointed away from you, lean forward slowly and reach for your feet. For variation, spread your legs apart. Point your toes upward. Lean forward placing one hand on each side of your right leg. Walk your hands toward your left leg until your hands are on opposite sites of your left leg.
Quadriceps and Iliotibial Band
Stretch your quads from a standing position by bringing the heel of one foot up to your buttocks. Pull your foot as close to your buttocks as possible. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. Increase the flexibility of your iliotibial band that runs down your outer thigh to your inner calf by balancing yourself while standing on one leg.
Stretch the hip flexors for greater knee flexibility with a kneeling exercise. Use a pad or folded towel to cushion your left knee on the floor. Place your left hand at your waist. Rest your right hand on your right thigh. Contract your abdominal muscles. Keep your spine straight as you lean forward to stretch your hip flexor muscle. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.
The knee joint is equipped with a self-lubricating system, known as the inner synovial membrane. This membrane secretes synovial fluid to lubricate the knee and prevent injury. Warm-up exercises increase the flow of synovial fluid in the joint and blood flow to your muscles to prepare your knees for exercise and stretching. Walk for several minutes before stretching. Pain is a signal that something is wrong, so don't stretch beyond your comfort level. Consult with a medical professional if you experience unusual pain or difficulty when performing stretches. If you have an injury, seek approval of your doctor before you begin a new exercise or stretching regimen. After exercising one knee with an exercise, repeat the exercise on the other side.
- MayoClinic.com: A Guide to Ten Basic Stretches
- The American Physical Therapy Association Book of Body Maintenance and Repair; Steve Vickery and Marilyn Moffat
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Knee Exercises
- Rush University Medical Center: Basic Anatomy of the Knee
- ExRx.net: Standing Hamstring Stretch
- Teach PE: Standing Hamstring Stretch
- Teach PE: Sitting Hamstring Stretch
- Sharecare: What Can I Do for Knee Pain?
For Judy Kilpatrick, gardening is the best mental health therapy of all. Combining her interests in both of these fields, Kilpatrick is a professional flower grower and a practicing, licensed mental health therapist. A graduate of East Carolina University, Kilpatrick writes for national and regional publications.