Knees are one of the most common chronic sore joints because they are so heavily used. Once they start to get sore, many people avoid using them, and sit more, or avoid activity. Contrary to common thinking, if you have sore knees, activity may keep those knees working smoothly, and decrease the soreness.
Let's face it, when knees start to bother you, your gate suffers and you walk differently. You may find yourself grabbing at the rail as you go up and down stairs, or avoiding stepping up/down curbs, or find yourself walking like Gumby. Have you noticed your walk change since your knee pain started? One excellent way to strengthen your knees is to start focusing on your walk, and resume your prior gate. This can actually be difficult, so start slowly.
Here are 5 exercises that will help keep the knees moving without causing excess stress and further injury to the joints. Perform exercises slowly and with control. If you experience sharp pain, stop immediately.
1. Chair leg extensions with bands: Sitting on the edge of a chair, loop band around the bottom of your foot and gently extend that leg until it is parallel to the floor. Return foot to the bent knee position, keeping band taut. Repeat 10 times for each leg.
2. Ball squats: Stand with a ball between you (by your shoulder blades) and the wall. Slowly lower into a squat, with thighs close or parallel to the floor. Hold for 3 seconds, then slowly raise back up. Repeat 10 times.
3. Standing side raises: Stand with feet together and legs straight. Slowly raise right leg as far as you can while keeping leg straight. Pause 3 seconds, then lower. Repeat 12 times, each leg. Add ankle weights to increase intensity.
4. Mini sumo jump squats: Stand with feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart. Lower into a shallow squat, like a sumo wrestler. Jump from that position, pushing through both legs equally, back to the shallow squat position. Lets will remain bent. You won't need to jump very high to get the effect. Repeat up to 15 times. Use your toes to soften your jump.
5. Stationary scissor lunge: Stand with one leg in front of the other. Bend front leg (this will be your support leg) and straighten the back leg (this will be your moving leg), reaching heel to the floor. Bend back leg again very slowly until knee comes forward, then straighten leg, pushing heel to floor again. This move will stretch your hamstrings and calves, but will also straighten the knee joint. Repeat 10 times each leg.
Stretching the hamstring is also a great way to keep the knee joint from feeling the pull from tight hamstrings. Stand with one straight leg on a bench or chair and slowly lean forward, hinging at the hip, so you feel the stretch in the hamstring and not so much in the back. This stretch can be done while sitting. While sitting on the edge of your chair, extend one leg and point toes up. Slowly lean forward, keeping your back straight. Hold for 5-10 seconds, then repeat on the other side.