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How to Target Knee Pain with Lower Body Workouts

Posted by | 01-08-2019

When we feel discomfort in our knees, our first instinct is to blame the knees themselves. But just because these joints hurt when running or squatting, doesn’t mean they’re solely responsible for all the pain. In fact, knee problems could signal a lack of mobility or strength in the hips and ankles -- which essentially act as ‘bookends’. In other words, you can’t expect these joints to perform optimally when you’re putting more stress on them than they can handle. 

An imbalance in specific muscles can really impact knee quality. One of the best ways to reduce pain in this area is to focus on strengthening your hamstrings, quads, hip adductors and calves. That’s because these areas support two key knee joints, known as the tibiofemoral joint and patellofemoral joint. 

For those who aren’t used to working out the lower body, some exercises may feel painful at first. But by building up the supporting muscles, you’ll notice an incredible reduction in overall knee problems. Check out our favourite lower body exercises that will strengthen knee-supporting muscles -- in a very low-impact way.

Kettlebell Swing
Target: Glutes and Hamstrings

This is the ideal workout for those with bad joints because it doesn’t require you to bend fully at the knees, nor will you suffer any jolting impact. The lack of a full knee-bend means there’s less pressure on your knee joints. 

The kettlebell swing involves forcefully using your hips to swing the weight between your legs. This exercise is very effective because it works hundreds of muscles all at the same time -- while targeting your glutes and hamstrings. 

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart
  • Grip top of kettlebell with both hands
  • Bend your knees to a half-squat, then push forward at the hips to drop the kettlebell between your legs
  • Stand back up while thrusting your hips; use this momentum to swing the kettlebell back up to chest height

Swiss Ball Jackknife
Target: Hip flexors

The swiss ball jackknife is a workout for your core that’s also beneficial for your hips. If you’ve been dealing with long-term knee pain, you can reduce stress by opening up your hips and improving mobility in this area. After all, strong muscles are the key to strong joints. 

The jackknife focuses on the hip flexors. This group of muscles allows you to bring your knee toward your chest and also bend at the waist. If your hip flexors are strong and have a good range of motion, the overall wear-and-tear of the knee joint will actually decrease.  

  • Grab a stability ball
  • Get in a high-plank position with your hands underneath your shoulders, and your shins on top of the ball
  • Use a workout bench to support your elbows if this makes it easier
  • Keep your body in a straight line from head to toe -- this is your starting position
  • Squeeze your core and bend your knees to roll the stability ball towards your upper body
  • Do this until just your toes are resting on the ball
  • Pause, then slowly straighten your legs and return to the starting position

Reverse Lunge & Press
Target: Hamstrings & Gluteus maximus 

When it comes to lower body conditioning, the lunge is a fundamental exercise. But the traditional forward lunge can cause a lot of joint discomfort, especially in the knees. No matter how perfect your technique may be, the actual mechanism of this motion can be a major source of pain. 

That’s why we recommend the reverse lunge. We also like to couple this exercise with a set of dumbbells, and finish it off with an overhead press. The result is an effective, low-impact workout that still builds strength in the knees. 

  • Stand with your feet together; hold the weights at your shoulders, palms out
  • Step your left foot back into a reverse lunge, making 90-degree angles with your front and back knees
  • Push off your left foot, bringing your left knee forward
  • Make sure your left knee is even with your left hip while raising your arms above your head
  • Without touching your left foot to the floor, step back into the lunge and begin your 2nd rep

Physiomed’s team of healthcare professionals are experts at treating knee pain. While the above exercises will be very effective in reducing discomfort, some people require more advanced care. We take an interdisciplinary approach to our patients’ needs, offering well-rounded, customized treatment plans. Massage therapy, custom orthotics and clinical conditioning are just some of the treatments we offer to target knee pain. So visit a Physiomed clinic near you, and let us find a long-term solution to all your knee-related concerns. 

For more information on addressing knee pain or to book an assessment, contact us here

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Dr. Scott Wilson

Dr. Scott Wilson is the Founder & Chairman of Physiomed; one of Canada’s largest franchised networks of inter-disciplinary healthcare clinics. A graduate of Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, Dr. Wilson founded Physiomed in 1994 and has since grown Physiomed to over 30 clinics in Southern Ontario and British Columbia. With hundreds of practitioners from over a dozen disciplines, Dr. Wilson and Physiomed have helped over 100,000 Canadians with physiotherapy, chiropractic, massage therapy, orthotic therapy, compression therapy and clinical conditioning as part of a program of rehabilitation and health optimization. In addition to helping patients improve their physical and mental well-being, Dr. Wilson has also mentored hundreds of practitioners to provide better care while enjoying more fulfilling careers. He is also a keynote speaker on many health related topics including how physiotherapy, chiropractic and health & wellness treatment can help with stress, weight loss, and unlocking the true potential within to achieve lasting physical well-being.

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