Exercising with “bad” knees requires care not to inflame the knee joint. However, exercise is the best long term strategy to care for the structure of the knee and health of its biomechanical functioning.

The knee joint is complex, with many moving parts that hold it together. If you have knee pain, then the best advice is to see a health care professional for a diagnosis.

I will be talking about Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome, also known as “Runner’s knee” “Cyclist’s Knee” “Hiker’s knee” or “Sitter’s knee.”

PFPS is diagnosed once all other possible knee pain causes have been eliminated. This type of knee pain often increases when running, walking up or downstairs, sitting for long periods, or with exercises such as squats and lunges.

Causes of Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS)

The exact cause of PFPS is unclear but usually attributed to imbalances in the forces controlling patellar (knee cap) tracking in the groove at the front of the lower end of the thigh bone (femur), when the leg bends or extends.

Factors contributing to PFPS are:

  • Weakness the thigh (quadriceps) or buttock muscles
  • Tightness in the muscles at the backs of the leg (hamstrings)
  • Short, long or damaged ligaments around the kneecap
  • Feet alignment when loaded, i.e. when walking, running, hiking or sit to standing.

Unfortunately, females are 50% more likely to develop PFPS because their wider pelvis increases the angle where the bones meet in the knee joint. The good news is, women are also more likely to take action sooner to remedy PFPS.

Exercising with PFPS

With PFPS, it is essential to strengthen the muscle structures that support the knees and other joints in the body. But always remember to exercise within your pain-free range of motion, and request modification from your trainer to ensure your knee structure is safe while under treatment with your health care professional.

Rehabilitation with a suitably qualified professional is critical, and it is not appropriate to go “commando” with a self-diagnosis. With this said, the following will help in preserving a healthy functioning of the knee joint.

  • Maintain Strength. Focus on strength building of the quadriceps and hip abductor muscles to help keep the knee balanced, while exercising within your pain-free range of motion.
  • Exercise Technique. Proper form is essential during exercise, and your coach will ensure your training is effective and safe.
  • Increase intensity gradually. This will allow supporting muscle structures time to strengthen and re-condition.
  • Warm-up. Before exercise warm up with about five minutes of light activity, as this will help safeguard the knee joint from strains.
  • Cool DownStretch. After exercise, take the time stretch to improve flexibility and maintain mobility.
  • Shoes: Invest in good shoes that fit well and provide shock absorption and support.

Exercises to help ease knee pain

When we are in pain, it’s natural to be searching for a quick fix. It can be frustrating and disappointing when treatment doesn’t relieve the injury immediately. Have courage; it does take time and patience; the body will heal given the right treatment and care.

The following exercises are provided by Sydney Sports Medicine Centre and have been found helpful in treating the main causes of PFPS. However, please speak with your health care provider to see if this program is appropriate for your specific knee pain. Exercises for Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome.

Whole body daily exercise is the best strategy to maintain healthy joints. Our 9-minute WELLth program focus is on cardiovascular fitness, muscle tone and core strength. You can download your beginner program with the link below and start exercising today!


Live well with Health and WELLth!  

Written by Anna: Nutritionist and Exercise Coach @SquareBoxFitness.com