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Exercises for Bad Knees

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It’s not easy to exercise when your knees hurt, and there are some exercises that definitely make knee problems worse. However, knees that don’t have strong flexible muscles, ligaments and tendons are prone to injury. You may also need to exercise after knee surgery. Here are some good at-home knee exercises that don’t require any special equipment, courtesy of the Orthopedic Research Clinic of Alaska. If you have bad knees or have had surgery, check with your doctor before performing these exercises.

Strengthening the Quadriceps Muscle

The quadriceps muscle is actually four separate muscles in the front of the thigh. Strong quads are necessary for walking, running, jumping, squatting and climbing. Since these motions are also the same kinds of exercise that strengthen the quads, they’re hard to do with bad knees. Here are some alternatives. Sit on the floor with your back against a wall. Straighten both legs. Contract the quadriceps muscle in each leg and hold it tight for at least five seconds. Relax and repeat at least 10 times; gradually work up to 20 reps. Remain in the same position, but bend one knee. Pull your toes back toward your knee in the opposite leg. Contract the quads and lift the leg 12 inches off the floor; hold for five seconds. Slowly lower the leg to the floor. Repeat 10 times, then do the other leg.

Inner Leg Muscles

The adductors (there are four adductors and three other muscles in this group) are the muscles on the inside of the leg; they help you cross your legs and are used in sports like horseback riding or any activity where you move side to side. They also help rotate and flex the knee. To strengthen the adductors, stand with your back against a wall. Place a ball (a soccer ball is about the right size) between the knees. Bend your knees to slowly slide down the wall – if you can get to the level where the knees are at a right angle, that’s great – if not, go down as far as you can. Hold for five to 10 seconds, then slide back up. Repeat 10 times.

Knee Stabilization Series

This is a good exercise after knee surgery, as it helps strengthen the muscles in the side of the thighs, hips and buttocks, all of which affect your knee support. Hold onto the back of a sturdy chair or rail. Lift one leg slightly and plant your weight solidly on the supporting leg. Tighten the thigh muscles in the lifted lag; move it slowly backward and then forward in front of the other leg. Hold three to five seconds. Slowly move your leg back into the starting position. Repeat. Perform the same exercise with the opposite leg. Don’t lock your knee on the supporting leg, arch your back or lean to the side.


All of these exercises can help if you have bad knees.


Contact us for questions or to schedule an appointment if you need medical care.


Personalized Fellowship-Trained Care Experts:

Adult & Pediatric 

Dr. Doug Vermillion

Dr. Doug Vermillion, M.D. is board certified in Orthopedic Surgery and has completed fellowship training in Adult Reconstructive Surgery/Foot and Ankle Surgery. He also has a strong background in Sports Medicine and this interest has led him to become an experienced cartilage restoration surgeon.

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Dr. Daniel Brown

Dr. Daniel Brown, M.D. is a board eligible fellowship trained Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgeon practicing in Anchorage, Alaska.  Dr. Brown is the newest member to the ORCA team and specializes in all aspects of musculoskeletal care of the pediatric patient from birth through adulthood.

Benjamin Kennah, PA-C

Benjamin Kennah is a certified physician assistant that specializes in orthopedic shoulder, hip and knee replacements while having a diverse background caring for patients. He leads an active lifestyle and is passionate about communicating with patients about the treatment and recovery process.

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