The best exercise to alleviate knee pain

People complain of knee pain all the time. For many, it is a case of intermittent pain, a sharp pain or slight discomfort experienced now and then. Then there is the chronic pain, which can wear down the knee structure over time, require constant medication and eventually surgery. This you want to avoid; the “letting go” of the issue for so long that arthritis sets in and surgery is required.

Often times the cause of intermittent knee pain is due to a muscle imbalance in the quadriceps or thigh muscles. The quads are made up of four muscles, and often because of how we move on a regular basis and the daily activities, the muscles on the outer sides of the thighs are stronger and take on the load. That means, the smaller muscles on the more interior portions of the leg, like the vastus medialis, are weaker and therefore less able to hold the knee in line for proper tracking.

The Vastus medialis is not used as much in lateral movement, which is usually what triggers common intermittent knee pain. If you strengthen that muscle, the knee will track better and not allow the patella (kneecap) to rub against bone or compress soft tissues.

In today’s video, physical trainer and bodywork therapist Alan Orr will show you a terminal extension exercise to correct this muscle imbalance by firing the vastus medialis muscle and thereby strengthening it. We don’t usually do exercises to strengthen this muscle, so this one is a must if you experience knee pain.

What you will need

You will need a moderately long and strong rubber exercise band and a solid and stable structure on which to anchor it. Here we have the band around some heavy lifting equipment, but a sofa leg or closet door may suffice.

What to do

Step one leg into the band so it is behind the thigh muscle and move back until the band it taut. The other leg steps back to elongate your stance. Think of the position as a long step, with rear leg straight and front leg bent.

From here, simply extend the knee so the front leg becomes straight. Do not bed or sway your hips during this motion.

What is happening is the backward extension of the knee requires use of the vastuis medialis muscle and the band provides the resistance. Extending then flexing the knee (locking it back and then bending it again) will work the muscle in question and strengthen it.

How much to do

This is not an exercise that requires a lot of effort. You want to do 4 sets of 12-14 repetitions on each leg. You can do one set, switch legs, and then another set and so on. After about 4 sets you will feel that band of muscle becoming fatigued. This is good as it means the muscle is being put to work and is strengthening.

The result

The result is that over time you will feel this muscle becoming more activated during other types of movements, like squats and lunges, wherein in the past it was not.

The more the inner quad muscles become strong and can take on more load, the more balanced all leg movements will be, from lifting to squatting to walking or playing tennis. With this balance comes better tracking of the patella and less inflammation, pain, stiffness. In time the knee pain will resolve, if a chronic condition is not already entrenched. In many cases, especially those who only experience intermittent knee pain, this exercises prevents chronic knee problems.


Dr. Mark Wiley

By Dr. Mark Wiley

Dr. Mark Wiley is an internationally renowned mind-body health practitioner, author, motivational speaker and teacher. He holds doctorates in both Oriental and alternative medicine, has done research in eight countries and has developed a model of health and wellness grounded in a self-directed, self-cure approach. Dr. Wiley has written 14 books and more than 500 articles. He serves on the Health Advisory Boards of several wellness centers and associations while focusing his attention on helping people achieve healthy and balanced lives through his work with Easy Health Options® and his company, Tambuli Media.