When you are experiencing hip, knee, and leg pain, it is hard to get motivated to exercise, but there are low-impact exercises that can help ease the pain and strengthen the muscles around the affected area to prevent future pain or injury. The key to all of these exercises is consistency. Do them every day to see quick improvement, and do not push past pain. The stretches may be intense, but sharp, stabbing pain is a sign to back off. Use proper alignment as noted in each exercise.
Low-Impact Exercise for Hip Pain
Low lunge: Start in a standing position, then step your right foot forward, bending your knee at a 90-degree angle and letting your back knee touch the ground. You can rest your hands on your right thigh. Engage your core to keep your torso upright. Try to sink your hips down to the ground, but do not let your bent knee come past your ankle (move your legs farther apart if you need to). Take five deep breaths, lift your back knee up, then step your feet back together. Repeat on the other side.
Side lunge: Stand with feet together and hands on hips. Take a deep breath and step your right foot out about three feet to the side, bending your knee and sinking your hips back and down until you are resting on your right heel (if possible; don’t push). Turn your left foot so it is flexed up to the sky for an added hamstring stretch. Hold for five breaths, then, staying low, shift the lunge to the other side, sinking onto your left heel and turning your right foot so it is flexed to the sky. Move slowly, and don’t go any deeper than you can. You should feel a stretch, and it may be intense, but it should not be so uncomfortable that your breath gets short and shallow. That is a sign to back off.
Butterfly stretch: Sit with the knees bent and soles of the feet touching each other in front of you. Take a deep breath and as you let it out, use your elbows to gently press your knees towards the ground. You can also take a deep breath and fold forward over your legs as you exhale. Hold for five breaths, then release. Repeat two to five times, or just hold it for longer, sinking a little deeper with each breath.
Low-Impact Exercise for Leg and Knee Pain
Form is very important in these exercises. When bending your knees, keep your knee aligned with your ankle, and never let your knee bend over your ankle. This puts tremendous pressure on the knee and can cause pain and further injury. The goal is to strengthen the leg muscles around the joint to stabilize and support the knee.
Partial squats: Begin in a standing position. Hinging at the hips, lower yourself to a partial squatting position, then rise up. Do not pass a 90-degree angle with your thighs. Hinging at the hips helps keep the knee stacked on top of the ankle as well.
Step-ups: Use a stair step or a sturdy box to step up or down with one foot, then up or down with the opposite. If you perform this action slowly you will increase the intensity of the muscle work. Pay attention to your knee as you stand fully and make sure not to lock or hyperextend your knees when they extend fully.
Calf raises: Standing on the edge of a step or a box and holding onto a wall or handrail for balance, raise and lower your body using one foot at a time. Stand flat, then on tiptoe, then flat again. Repeat ten times, three sets on each side.
Inner thigh leg lifts: This can be done with or without resistance bands. Lie on your right side, rocked slightly back onto your butt. Bend your left knee and place it behind your right leg. Lift your right leg off the floor and hold it for three to five seconds. Breathe. Repeat ten times, then roll to the other side and repeat for the left leg. You can add resistance bands as your leg strength improves.
What other exercises have you found helped with your hip, knee, or leg pain?
Image by faungg’s photo via Flickr