5 Easy Stretches to a healthier knee
October 19, 2020
5 Easy Stretches to a healthier knee

Stretch your way to a healthier knee!

Why stretch?

Stretching can sometimes be missed or undervalued in exercise programs. While there is some conflicting evidence around stretching, there is a time and place where stretching, specifically static stretching, is necessary and can help to prevent pain such as knee pain.

How does stretching work?

There are many causes of knee pain, and short tight muscles can be one of them. When there is pain or injury, muscles can tighten up as a protective response. When these muscles are short and not in an ideal length-tension relationship, the muscles cannot be contracted effectively. Therefore, stretching these muscles allows for greater recruitment and activation of the muscle fibres. How stretching works is it activates sensory organs called proprioceptors in our muscles and tendons (i.e. muscle spindles and golgi tendon organs), and this information is sent to the brain then a signal sent back to muscle to relax, resulting in less pain. Flexibility and reduced tension in these muscles may also aid in improving range of motion of joints.

Therefore, training flexibility is just as important as training strength, cardiovascular fitness and endurance, core control and stabilisation, and coordination etc. Most evidence supports a combined exercise program for effectively managing knee pain. We have included some valuable stretches for major muscle groups in the kinetic chain; you can do these stretches at home and they don’t take much time and require little to no equipment – so you’ve got no excuse!

How much should I be doing them for?

Each stretch should be held comfortably for at least 30s and repeated 3-5 times daily.

These stretches are pitched to general well being. If you have concern about your knee pain, we would advise you to consult your physiotherapist before doing them on your own!

 

Stretch No.1: Glute (piriformis) stretch

Instruction:

To stretch your right piriformis, cross your right leg over your left.

Using your hand or forearm, press down your right thigh.

Optional: While keeping your back straight, lean forwards to increase the stretch.

 

Stretch No. 2:  Tensor fascia latae (TFL)/ iliotibial band (ITB) stretch

Instruction:

To stretch your right TFL/ITB, cross your left leg in front and over your right foot.

Bring your right arm over your head and to the other side to feel a stretch on the outer part of your thigh.

 

Stretch No. 3: Quadriceps stretch

Instruction:

Start lying on your stomach.

To stretch your right quads, bend your right knee, wrap a towel around your ankle (ask someone to help you if this is difficult) and hold onto the towel with one or both hands.

Pull towards you until you feel a comfortable stretch.

 

Alternatively, you perform this in standing.

Standing close to a wall, bend your right knee up and hold around the ankle with your hand.

Use the other hand to balance yourself against the wall.

Note! Avoid arching the lower back as shown in the picture.

 

Stretch No. 4:  Hamstring stretch

Instruction:

Start lying on your back.

To stretch your right hamstring, hold onto the back of the knee with both hands and straighten out your knee as much as possible- hold where comfortable.

Keep your other leg straight or if not bent up as shown below.

Alternatively, you can perform this in sitting.

To stretch your right hamstring, straighten your right knee.

Keeping your back straight, lean forward and use your right arm to touch your toes.

Avoid looking down and pointing toes towards your face, as this is a neural glide and may aggravate symptoms if performed unsuitably or incorrectly – speak to a physiotherapist before trying this!

Stretch No. 5: Calf stretches (gastroc and soleus)

Gastrocnemius stretch

Instruction:

Start facing a wall. To stretch your right gastrocs, step your right leg behind your left in a step stance.

Put your hands up against the wall lightly for balance. Keep your right knee straight!!, as you lean your body weight forwards and bend your left knee to the wall.

Alternatively put your hands on your hips.

Avoid arching your back and leaning on the wall as shown in the picture.

Soleus stretch

 

Instruction:

Start facing a wall. To stretch your right soleus, step your right leg behind your left in a step stance.

Put your hands up against the wall lightly for balance. Keep your right knee bent!!, as you lean your body weight forwards and bend your left knee to the wall.

Alternatively put your hands on your hips.

Avoid arching your back and leaning on the wall as shown in the picture.

 

Generally, static stretching is known as a good cool-down for sports, running, and lifting weights, due to physiological benefits such as reducing lactic acid build-up and faster recovery of heart rate etc. Additionally, there are other types of stretching including ballistic, dynamic and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation techniques (e.g. contract relax), and other methods of self release such as foam rolling; some of which may be suitable to you and your level of activity and sports.

These can all be guided by your physiotherapist.

How can we help?

Your Maxvale physiotherapist can perform a thorough assessment to determine the cause of your knee pain through observing muscle imbalances and movement patterns, from which they can then guide you through a suitable comprehensive exercise program to manage your knee pains, which may include some great stretches.

Book in to see one of our skilled physiotherapists now!

Call us at 03 87591623 or click here for an appointment today to treat your condition.

Written by Tiffany Taing, APAM Physiotherapist
Edited by: Dr Max Lim, FACP MSK Physiotherapist
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

 

References:

Saltychev, M., Dutton, R. A., Laimi, K., Beaupré, G. S., Virolainen, P., & Fredericson, M. (2018). Effectiveness of conservative treatment for patellofemoral pain syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine, 50(5), 393-401. doi:10.2340/16501977-2295

Rixe, J. A., Glick, J. E., Brady, J., & Olympia, R. P. (2013) A Review of the Management of Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome. The Physician and Sportsmedicine, 41(3), 19-28. doi:10.3810/psm.2013.09.2023