How can I help prevent knee pain while exercising?

Dr. Kevin J. Soden, MD
Family Medicine
Each person is different, so you may have to experiment to find the right exercise for you that does not increase your pain. Avoid pounding type exercises and use ice when finished exercising to help reduce swelling and pain following your workout.
Since osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease and pain and swelling occurs in your joints, completely preventing knee pain while exercising may not be completely possible. There are a few measures you can take to try to relive the stress on your joints. To help relieve pain try to apply heat and cold. Heat or cold (or a combination of the two) can be useful for joint pain. Heat can be applied in a number of different ways -- with warm towels, hot packs, or a warm bath or shower -- to increase blood flow and ease pain and stiffness. In some cases, cold packs (bags of ice or frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel), which reduce inflammation can relieve pain or numb the sore area. (Check with a doctor or physical therapist to find out if heat or cold is the best treatment.) 
Jaspal R. Singh, MD
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
Knee pain that results from working out is commonly due to a condition called patellofemoral syndrome, although other causes are possible.You can help prevent such knee pain and reduce your risk of injury by:
  • keeping your glutes (hip abductors) strong
  • doing thigh stretches
Rick Olderman
Physical Therapy

While running, working on an elliptical machine, cycling, or rowing, notice whether one or both knees tend to collapse inward and correct it. It may be time to slow down or reduce resistance to fix the mechanics of your movement. Once corrected, you can gradually increase weight or speed again as long as you continue with good form.

Fixing You: Hip & Knee Pain: Self-treatment for IT band friction, arthritis, groin pain, bursitis, knee pain, PFS, AKPS, and other diagnoses

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Fixing You: Hip & Knee Pain: Self-treatment for IT band friction, arthritis, groin pain, bursitis, knee pain, PFS, AKPS, and other diagnoses

Hip and knee pain are often a result of poor pelvic muscle performance in combination with poor walking habits. This combination creates tracking problems in the hip socket or excessive rotation at...

You should not experience knee pain during exercise. This is an indication that an underlying issue exists or that you may be performing exercise improperly. Be sure to seek physician consultation to ensure there are no underlying issues with the knee.

Many individuals, will develop altered biomechanics and movement compensations. Most commonly they will develop tightness in the hip flexors muscles that pull change hip mechanics. With this muscle chronically overactive, the gluteal muscles become underactive and have an inability to control the femur. The NASM Corrective Exercise protocol suggests to inhibit and lengthen the hip flexors followed by strengthening of the gluteal muscles. Before doing so you should see a physician to determine exactly what is wrong with your knee.

Dr. Robin Miller, MD
Internal Medicine
There are several things that can help prevent knee pain while exercising. Avoiding weight gain and maintaining a normal body mass index is key. Find good fitting shoes that work for your level of exercise. Always warm up before exercising.  If you are at a gym, low-impact exercises are easier on the knees such as using a rowing or cross country ski machine. Swimming and walking are great outdoor forms of exercise. Weight training to strengthen your thigh muscles will also help your knees. Gradually increase the intensity of your workouts and consider working with a trainer or physical therapist if you are just getting started. That will help you to be proactive when it comes to knee protection.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.