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  • Writer's pictureJonny Slick

Managing and Resolving Knee Pain

Knee pain is a widespread issue that affects people of all ages and activity levels. Whether it's due to injury, overuse, or underlying conditions, knee pain can be debilitating and hinder daily activities. In this blog, we will explore the common causes of general knee pain, provide general strengthening and flexibility exercises, and outline training protocols to help alleviate discomfort and promote recovery.

Physical therapist examining a knee

Common Causes of Knee Pain:

Overuse and Tendonitis

Repetitive stress on the knee joint, such as excessive running, jumping, or cycling, can lead to inflammation of the tendons, resulting in knee pain. Patellar tendonitis (jumper's knee) and iliotibial band (IT band) syndrome are common overuse injuries.

Ligament Sprains and Tears

Injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), medial collateral ligament (MCL), or lateral collateral ligament (LCL) can cause knee pain, instability, and swelling. Ligament injuries often occur during sports or activities involving sudden changes in direction or impact.

Meniscus Tears

The menisci are cartilage pads that provide cushioning and stability to the knee joint.

Tears in the meniscus can occur due to twisting or rotational forces and result in knee pain, swelling, and difficulty with movement.


The gradual wear and tear of joint cartilage over time can lead to osteoarthritis, a degenerative condition causing knee pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility. Aging, obesity, and previous knee injuries are common risk factors.

Since the underlying causes of knee pain vary, it’s important to get your knee examined by a physical therapist or orthopedist to rule out tears or structural abnormalities. But for most overuse injuries and tendonitis, the treatment and rehab strategies are similar.

Physical therapist evaluating knee pain

Treatment Strategies and Exercises:

Rest and Activity Modification

Avoid activities that exacerbate knee pain, providing ample rest to allow the joint to heal. Let pain be your guide. If it hurts, don’t do it! When it comes to strength training, squats may feel ok, but lunges may hurt. For cardio, walking, biking, and swimming may be easier on your knee than running or anything involving jumping and landing.

Strengthening Exercises

Focus on strengthening the muscles surrounding the knee to provide support and stability.

Exercises like deadlifts, hamstring curls, modified squats and step ups, hip raises, and wall sits can be beneficial (provided they don’t cause you pain). Gradually increase the intensity and resistance as tolerated and be patient with your body. (Click on the exercise links to see our demo videos of the exercises!)

Stretching/Range of Motion Exercises

Perform gentle, controlled stretches and movements to improve knee flexibility and reduce stiffness. We like to use the couch stretch, band ankle mobilization, seated hip rotations, and the F.E.R.B. stretch on a box to improve hip, knee, and ankle flexibility.

Balance and Proprioception Training

Incorporate exercises that challenge balance and improve proprioception to enhance joint stability. Examples include single-leg squats and deadlifts, rotational exercises, and lateral movements performed slowly with control.

Once you’ve given your knee some active rest with the above strategies and your pain is mostly gone, here are three things to remember when returning to your normal routine.

Straight Shot personal trainer demonstrating a split squat

Gradual Return to Activity

Once pain and discomfort have subsided, gradually reintroduce activities that involve the knee, such as walking, jogging, or specific lifts. Begin with low-impact exercises and gradually progress to higher-impact activities, monitoring pain levels and adjusting intensity as needed. Keep in mind that it will take some time to build back up to where you were before, but if you rush it, you risk reinjuring yourself. So again…be patient.

Proper Form and Technique

Focus on maintaining proper form and technique during exercises and activities to minimize unnecessary stress. Here’s where hiring a trainer is huge. A personal trainer can look at your form and have a good idea of how to correct your movement to help you reduce or eliminate knee pain and maybe even prevent it from happening again if your form was the issue.

Program Design

If repetitive overuse or overtraining was the issue behind your knee pain, it may be time for a new workout plan. Make sure you balance training both sides of your knee joint, improve your hip and ankle mobility and strength, and don’t increase your weights or reps too much, too fast. Again, having a program designed by a qualified personal trainer can be extremely helpful here since they’ll be able to take all the guesswork away from you and all you have to do is follow the program!

Straight Shot Training Coach working with a personal training client

Knee pain can be debilitating, but with the right knowledge and treatment approach, it is possible to manage and reduce symptoms. Identifying the root causes of knee pain, engaging in appropriate mobility and strengthening exercises, and following protocols tailored to your needs can significantly improve knee function and quality of life. Remember, it's essential to consult with healthcare professionals or physical therapists to receive a comprehensive evaluation and develop an individualized treatment plan for your specific condition. As your knee pain subsides, consider hiring a personal trainer to help you with your form and develop a comprehensive program for you!

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