I’ve had knee pain on and off in my life. Many years ago when I began limping because the pain wouldn’t go away, I went to see my doctor who was a Family Practice doctor specializing in Sports Medicine. He told me I was built like a basketball player (I guess he would know) and explained why I was having pain and what was going on in my knee. The patella (kneecap) was out of alignment because muscles on one side of my leg were stronger than on the other side and therefore were pulling the kneecap off its track causing a grinding motion. The exercise he gave me to do was so simple, I doubted it would work.
One key to make sure this is the correct exercise for your knee is this: if you have knee pain when you get up from a chair, this is the exercise for you. All other knee pain may not improve with this exercise. In fact, you could make the problem worse so be sure it’s that you have knee pain when you get up from a sitting position. Here is the exercise he gave me. It starts off very mildly with little weight:
Get a can of something, soup, kidney beans, corn, whatever you have in the house. Before you lie down or sit on the floor propped up on your elbows, fasten the can to the ankle of your leg with the problem knee. I wish I could remember how he told me to accomplish this but I can’t. Try a dish towel. Then, lift your leg up about 10 inches off the floor. Hold it there to the count of 10. Do three repetitions. You might as well do it on the other foot too since you’ve got the can and you’re already on the floor. Plus, you don’t want to end up with one leg being stronger than the other.
Do this exercise every day for one week. You should start to feel some improvement in your knee. You might even feel some improvement by the next day.
With me, I don’t think I felt any improvement so I called my doctor and asked him if I could use a heavier weight. He said yes. This is when I bought my first pair of ankle weights. They were 2 lb weights. I worked with them and that’s when my knee improved.
Eventually, I joined a health club and used their leg extension machines until I was using 65 lb weights. But I s-l-o-w-l-y built up to this over the years. It didn’t happen overnight!
In fact, I can’t stress enough how you need to do things slowly. Whenever I went to a new gym and got the free personal trainer for a day or week or whatever their deal was, if they told me to do such and such an exercise with 10 repetitions, I would only do 3 or 4. I did not want to be sore. If you are just starting a health club membership, you don’t want to be sore starting from your first day. It’s ridiculous that they always push you to do too much. It isn’t a race! You want to get in better shape with a minimum of soreness and/or pain if ANY! So, you go Monday and do 3 reps with the personal trainer. Then you go Wednesday and do 4 or 5 reps of the same exercise or machine and gradually build up on all the machines you like. Or, you may want to stay at 3 reps for a few more visits before you increase your weights. Listen to your body. Just because someone calls themselves a personal trainer doesn’t mean they know what is best for you! I’ve had some terrible, terrible personal trainers! And I can’t think of one who told me something worth remembering! That’s a pretty sad statement, so beware!
When I stopped using a health club, my knee pain slowly came back. So, I remembered the exercise that my doctor gave me to do and attached my ankle weight to my ankle. I did some exercises lying down and also the same exercise standing up and the pain left again.
My doctor told me not to be surprised if someday someone told me that I would need a new kneecap. It’s been 40 years since that doctor visit and as yet, nobody has told me that I need a new kneecap!
If you follow my blog, you know that I do a lot of different exercises: squats, kickboxing, knee-raises, weight lifting, Pilates, pliés (ballet movement), and let’s not forget mowing the lawn not to mention climbing the ladder. These all help to strengthen the legs overall but the weight on the ankle zeroes in on the problem area of your knee.
If you have increased pain when you do this exercise, stop. It may be the wrong exercise for you or perhaps you have too much swelling in the area and need to apply ice. The application of ice reduces the swelling and therefore the pain. My doctor told me to get a Dixie cup and fill it with water then put it in the freezer. When it was frozen, I was to gently rub the ice on my knee. This was a fun way to apply ice. You might want to make an extra ice cup just to lick while you are treating your knee!
Sometimes a simple exercise can work miracles. I hope this one works for you!