Is exercise good or bad for knee pain?

Knee pain is one of the most common chronic conditions in the U.S., affecting approximately 19% of the population. The occurrence of knee pain increases with age, however, knee pain can also be a challenge for children, teens, and young adults.

People who suffer from knee pain often wonder whether exercise can help or hurt their condition. The answer is that there is no firm "yes" or "no" - each person is different and the question of whether to exercise with knee pain depends on several factors, including the severity of the pain, the cause, and the person's overall physical conditions. Overweight people, for example, are more likely to exacerbate their condition than someone who is not.

Knee exercises can help strengthen knee muscles and keep them flexible but they should be performed slowly and methodically. It is most important to listen to your body: If your knee begins to hurt while you are exercising, stop.

If you choose to exercise your knee or knees, start with a no-impact warm-up such as a few minutes on a stationary bicycle. Some exercises to consider are:

  • Leg raises- These are also no-impact. Just lie on your back, bend one knee and raise the other a few inches in the air ten times. Do this set of ten three times for each knee, or less if you experience pain.
  • Prone leg raises- For these, lie on your stomach, keep your legs straight and raise each one a few inches off the ground. Do this set of ten three times for each knee, or less if you experience pain.
  • Calf raises- Brace yourself against a wall or chair and slowly raise your heels. Do three sets of ten, or less if you experience pain.

When exercise and medications fail...

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