Back of knee pain is a pretty common complaint. Here are nine great stretches that can help banish that pesky ache.
There are a few different causes of back of knee pain. First, you might be dealing with a Baker’s Cyst, also known as a popliteal cyst. In this case, a fluid-filled sac called a bursa, forms in the back of the knee. When it becomes inflamed, it gets swollen and painful.
Arthritis is another common cause of back of knee pain. Over time, wear and tear on the knee joint causes painful inflammation. Thirdly, if you’re dealing with an injury such as a tear to the menisci (or pieces of cartilage) or to one of the ligaments in the joint, this can also cause swelling and back of knee pain.
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It is always important to get diagnosed by your doctor to know exactly what’s causing your pain. In the meantime, two easy ways that you can help relieve pain right from home are with R.I.C.E. – Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation – and with proper stretching.
Muscle tightness can cause overcompensation in certain muscles and joints which, over time, can lead to back of knee pain and any of the conditions mentioned above. Conversely, knee pain and injury can lead to muscle tightness which leads to further discomfort. This is why it is so important to both stretch and strengthen certain muscles like the calf, hamstrings, quadriceps, and hips.
Practice these nine gentle stretches daily to prevent back of knee pain or to relieve discomfort caused by pre-existing pain.
Standing Calf Stretch | 30 sec per side
Tightness in the calves causes tension in the back of the knee, which leads to pain. This wall stretch helps to loosen things up.
- Stand up with your hands resting on a wall in front of you.
- Step the ball of your right foot up onto the base of the wall, keeping your heel on the ground.
- Keep a slight bend in your knee and slowly lean your hips towards the wall until you feel a stretch through your right calf. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs.
- Repeat 2 or 3 times on both sides.
Downward Facing Dog | 30 sec
This stretch relieves pressure on the back of the knee by releasing tension from the feet, calves, and hamstrings.
- Start in a tabletop position on your hands and knees.
- Tuck your toes under and lift your hips up towards the sky to come into an upside-down V-shape.
- Keep your spine straight and press through your palms to lift your chest up towards your upper thighs. Flex your toes up to deepen the stretch through your calves.
- Hold for 30 seconds.
Seated Forward Fold | 30 sec
This stretch relieves tension from the calves, hamstrings, and hips.
- Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Slightly bend your knees, sit up tall, and reach your arms straight out in front of you.
- Inhale to hinge at your hips, keeping your lower back straight. Catch the tops of your toes with your hands, bending your knees more if you need to. Your belly should touch your thighs.
- Gently pull back on the toes to feel a calf and hamstrings stretch. Keep your shoulders relaxed and hold for 30 seconds.
- Release, then repeat 2 or 3 more times.
Standing Hamstring Stretch | 30 sec per side
Let the pressure release from the back of the knee with this gentle hamstrings stretch.
- Stand up and straighten your right leg out in front of you. Flex the foot.
- Place your right hand on your hip and hinge at the hips to reach your left hand towards your right toes. Keep your lower back flat and bring a bend into your left knee.
- Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
- Repeat for 2 or 3 sets per side.
Standing Quad Stretch | 30 sec per side
Tight quads cause pressure on the kneecap, which can lead to pain in the back of the knee. This stretch helps relieve that extra tension.
- Begin standing with your left hand on a wall or chair.
- Shift your weight into your left foot and bend your right knee to kick your heel towards your booty. Grab the top of the foot with your right hand.
- Bring your knees in line and gently press your hips forward as you stay lifted through your chest. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
- Repeat for 2 or 3 sets per side.
Figure 4 | 30 sec per side
Tight hips can lead to knee pain. This stretch helps to prevent and soothe hip and knee pain.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor.
- Cross your right ankle over your left thigh and flex your foot. Bring the left thigh in towards your chest, loop your right hand between your thighs, and interlace your fingers behind your left thigh.
- Hug the left leg in towards your body to feet a stretch through the outer right hip. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs.
- Repeat for 2 to 3 sets per leg.
Wall Squat | 30 sec
More of an exercise than a stretch, this one will strengthen the quads to ensure support for the knee joint.
- Stand facing away from a wall. Lean your back against the wall and walk your feet forward a bit. They should be hip-width distance apart.
- Slide your hips down in line with your knees, so your knees are at 90-degree angles.
- Reach your arms straight out in front of you and hold for 20 to 30 secs.
- Stand back up to rest, then repeat for 2 to 3 sets.
Heel Slide | 10 reps per side
This gentle exercise strengthens the hamstrings while also stretching the quads, which alleviates imbalances around the knee joint.
- Lie on your back with your legs straight out in front of you. Rest your hands by your sides.
- Bend your right knee a tiny bit and flex the foot so that the heel is on the ground.
- Exhale as you slide the right heel in towards your glute, then inhale to slide it back out until the leg is almost straight again.
- Repeat for 10 reps, then switch legs.
- Repeat for 2 to 3 sets per side.
Side-Lying Clamshell | 10 reps per side
This easy exercise helps you to build stability in the hips to help keep the knees properly aligned.
- Lie on your right side. Support your right head with your arm like a pillow. Stack your legs and bend your knees.
- Exhale as you butterfly your knees open, keeping the edges of your feet together. You should feel the outer left hip working. Inhale to bring the legs back together.
- Repeat for a total of 10 reps, then switch sides.
- Complete 2 to 3 sets per side.
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