As people get older, it’s very common to experience stiffness in the knee joints. Stiff knees can make it uncomfortable to walk, get out of the car, or even stand up from a seated position. The goal is to do these things with ease and stretching the knee joints is an effective strategy to avoid knee pain.
Did you know that warm-ups and stretching are two vital components of exercise that many people skip? That’s an interesting fact, especially since stretching can feel so good! You can refer to stretching and warm-ups as forms of pre-hab, which are essential tools that can prevent tightness and weakness. Knee pain often results from weakness in the hips, glutes, and lower extremities. It’s also possible to experience knee pain as a result of tight tendons, ligaments, hamstrings, calves, and quads. If these bodily components don’t work together in harmony, you cannot properly move your knees with ease.
Knees can become stiff more easily because they are hinge joints. Shoulder or hip joints, for example, are ball-and-socket joints that have more mobility, especially during sleep. Knee joints may remain in a fixed position for longer periods of time, without regular straightening and bending. If you experience any tightness or stiffness in the knees, the following stretches will be greatly beneficial. Aim to do these stretches at least once a day, especially before any sort of physical activity. You can even do them when you wake up to feel more limber.
Figure Four Stretch
The great thing about this stretch is that you can do it laying down, which is great if you need to limber up before you get out of bed. Lie flat on your back and cross your right foot over your left quad, bending your right knee out to the side. Bend your left knee and reach your hands forward to grab your left hamstring. Gently pull it toward your chest and hold for 30 seconds once you feel a stretch. Switch sides and repeat.
Standing Calf Stretch
Tight calves can put undue pressure on the back of the knee, increasing the possibility of stiffness and more serious injuries like plantar fasciitis. To start, stand in front of a wall and step your left leg behind you. Bend your right leg slightly and keep your left leg straight with your heel planted on the ground. Place your hands on the wall and gently push against it to feel a stretch in your left calf. Hold this pose for 30 seconds or so and then switch sides.
Tight quads can put excess pressure on the patella, also known as the kneecap. The tighter the quad, the more it can feel like pain exists behind the knee. Normally, you stand up for this stretch, but you create more stability in a lying down position. Lie on your right side and keep your right leg straight. Bend the left knee behind you so that your left foot is near your buttocks. Reach back with your left arm and hold the top of your foot, pulling it towards you until you feel a stretch. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and then switch sides to repeat.
Lunging Hip Flexor Stretch
If you sit at a desk all day, it’s very common to experience tight hip flexors. When the hip flexors are tight, you overuse the quads and create more pressure on the knees. Kneel down on your right knee and place the left foot flat in front of you. Make sure the top of your right foot is on the floor. Lean forward slowly until you feel the stretch along the front of your right hip. Hold for 30 seconds and then switch sides to repeat.
Standing Hamstring Stretch
If your hamstrings are tight, you aren’t giving your knees or hips optimal support. In fact, most knee injuries result from hamstring strains, so keep them hammies mobile! Stand up straight and plant your right foot about one foot in front of your left foot. Sink your right heel into the floor, hinge at the hips, and sit back ever so slightly. Keep both your right leg and back straight, bending the left leg to increase the stretch. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and then repeat on the other leg.