If you suffer from knee pain, you’re not alone.
Knee pain is the second most common type of chronic pain, and one-third of all Americans have experienced it at some point during their lives, including while exercising.
The five tips listed below can help you prevent knee pain during your workouts.
1. Start Slow
Joint pain, especially in the knees, often comes as a result of taking on too much, too quickly.
If you’re preparing for a race, you might experience knee pain if you increase your mileage too quickly. Generally speaking, you shouldn’t increase your mileage by more than 10 percent each week.
Knee pain can also come from lifting more weight than you can safely handle, especially when doing exercises like squats and deadlifts. If you’re experiencing one of the following scenarios during your workouts, you’re probably lifting too much weight and are putting yourself at risk of injury.
You’re consistently falling short of your desired rep range (e.g., shooting for 8 but only getting to 5)
You have to “cheat” or swing the weight to get it up
You’re experiencing joint pain without muscle soreness
2. Use Proper Form
Runners and weightlifters are both prone to knee pain, and using proper form can be helpful for both kinds of athletes.
Characteristics of proper running form include:
Avoiding heel strikes
Keeping knees slightly bending when landing
Keeping feet pointed in the direction you’re running
Some general tips for preventing knee pain and injuries during any kind of weightlifting workout include:
Avoid locking out your knees at the top of an exercise
Keep weight in your heels when doing squats and deadlifts
Keep knees behind ankles during squats and lunges
3. Wear the Right Shoes
Many runners are not wearing shoes that properly support the natural construction of their feet. As a result, they’re putting too much impact on the rest of their legs and doing damage to their knees.
Head to a specialty running store and ask for a gait analysis before purchasing a new pair of shoes. This will help you ensure you’re getting the right amount of support, which will cut down on unnecessary impact on the knees and other joints.
4. Wear a Knee Brace
Wearing the right knee brace for working out can provide extra support and help prevent pain and injury while exercising.
There are several different kinds of knee braces to choose from, including sleeves, wraparound braces, and hinged braces. The type you wear will depend on the amount of support and compression you need.
A knee brace is a good tool for preventing pain, but you should always talk to your doctor before using one. They’ll let you know which type is right for you and give you more instructions for keeping pain at bay long term.
5. Do Prevention Exercises and Stretches
Make an effort to perform exercises and stretches that can strengthen the muscles around the knee joint and improve mobility to help prevent injury.
Leg press with light weight
Position your feet so your legs make a 90 degree angle when bent. Exhale as your press the weight away with your legs, and be sure to push through your heels and engage your quadricep muscles.
Hamstring curls on an exercise ball
Lie down with your calves, ankles, and heels on the ball. Contract your glute muscles to lift your hips. Then, on an exhale, contract your hamstrings and bend your legs, pulling the ball in towards your body. Inhale and return to the start.
These can be done with light weights or no weight at all. Stand with your feet as wide as your hips with knees your toes pointing forward. Rise onto your toes to engage your calves. Stay like this for a few seconds, then set your feet back down on the ground.
All of these exercises can be done with both legs or with one leg at a time. Working with each leg individually can be especially helpful if you want to target any muscle imbalances.
The following stretches are also good for loosening up the muscles and joints around the knee. Do each of them for at least 30 seconds when your workout or run is finished.
Place your hands against a wall, arms straight, with your right foot behind your left. Bend your left knee. Keep your right knee straight and your right heel flat. Don’t let your left knee go past your left ankle.
Standing hamstring stretch
Stand with straight legs — but don’t lock your knees. Feet can be hips width apart or together. On an exhale, bend forward and reach toward your toes without bending your knees.
Lying hamstring stretch
Lie down on your back with legs extended. On an exhale, lift your right leg up and hang on wherever you can reach — calf, ankle, back of the thigh, or foot while keeping your leg straight.
Knee pain might be common, but it’s also highly preventable. If you’re currently experiencing pain in your workouts, implement one of the above tips to keep it from getting worse. Even if you’re not feeling pain, the tips discussed above can help you stay that way. Give them a try today.