—Julie L., second-year graduate student, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks
It depends on the extent of the knee injury, but generally, strengthening the muscles around the knee and the hip can help to alleviate knee pain. The movements that occur at the knee are controlled by muscles that originate in the hip. Weakness in the hip muscles can cause a misalignment among the patella (kneecap), tibia (shin), and femur (upper leg). Strengthening the hip helps to decrease stress on the knee joint during movement and is a good place to start when trying to recover from a knee injury. However, it’s always a good idea to visit your healthcare provider for an assessment. They can refer you to a physical therapist who will give you tailored exercises to help you recover.
Below are two exercises to strengthen the muscles that help support the knee. Just make sure to visit your healthcare provider first before trying these or any other exercises to ensure you aren’t doing any further damage.
Hamstring leg curl
To work the hamstrings, lie on your back with your feet up on an exercise ball and your arms by your side. Next, lift your hips up off of the floor by pressing your legs into the ball. Then, bend your knees and roll the ball in toward your body. Straighten your knees and slowly return your hips down to the ground to the starting position. Start with 1 set of 10-15 reps and build up to 2 or 3 sets.
The glutes, specifically the gluteus medius, can be targeted by an exercise called “monster walks.” Place an exercise band around your lower legs. With your feet shoulder-width apart, squat down so your knees are bent about 45 degrees. Keeping good posture, slowly take a few steps forward, then a few steps backward. Try to maintain tension on the band and avoid inward movement of the knees.