5 Easy Stretches to Alleviate Knee Pain

Knee pain is a common complaint, but you can help manage—or even prevent it—by stretching these key spots.

Streches for Knee Pain: woman stretching calf against a wall
Photo: Getty Images

Got knee pain? You're in good company. Unfortunately knee pain is fairly common and can affect a wide range of individuals, from advanced athletes to older individuals, says Steve Knauf, DC, vice president of chiropractic and compliance at The Joint Chiropractic in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Knee pain can come on suddenly, or develop over time and hurt for an extended period. While there are numerous causes of knee pain, Knauf lists the most common as muscle weakness, referred pain from the low back or hip, arthritis, foot issues such as flat feet, direct trauma, poor alignment, poor body posture, auto accidents, excess weight for your body type, and overuse.

If you're dealing with knee pain, identifying the cause is crucial. "That pain can involve structures beyond your knee, and by knowing the cause, you can treat that instead of simply treating your symptoms," Knauf says. So talk to your doctor before starting any exercise or stretching routine if you're in significant pain in the knee area.

Once you have the all-clear, though, certain everyday stretches can help relieve knee pain. Many of these stretches actually involve the ankle and hip joints, which might sound odd at first, until you learn why. "When you have knee pain, the cause of that pain is often a byproduct of the inefficiency of another part of the body, common culprits being the ankle and hip joints," explains Mara Kimowitz, owner of StretchSource in Boonton, N.J. When either the ankle or hip joint (the adjacent joints on either side of the knee joint) lacks a healthy range of motion, then undue pressure, torque, and work are put on the knee joint. This results in overuse, damage, and pain. But by having a healthy range of motion in both the ankle and hip joints, you can directly impact the health of the knee.

Here, Kimowitz outlines five basic stretches you can do as part of a regular stretching routine or on an as-needed basis in order to relieve pain and strain on the knees. Because prevention is the key to staying injury free and pain free, you can (and should!) do these stretches several times every week.

Helpful Stretches for Knee Pain

01 of 05

Calf Stretch

Knee Pain Stretch: calf stretch with wall
Mehroz Kapadia

Stand with your feet hip-width apart, facing a wall with hands on the wall and elbows bent. Step the right foot back until your arms are straight, but hands are still on the wall. Bend your left knee. Hold here for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

02 of 05

Ankle Twist With Band

Knee Pain Stretch: seated ankle rotation with resistance band
Mehroz Kapadia

Sit on the floor with your left leg extended out in front of you; keep your right leg bent and right foot flat on the floor. Place a resistance band, scarf, or belt around the ball of your left foot and hold the ends with the left hand. Gently pull your left foot to the left trying not to move or rotate the left leg. Check that the left knee still faces the ceiling as the ankle stretches. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

03 of 05

Seated Figure 4 Stretch

Knee Pain Stretch: seated hip rotation
Mehroz Kapadia

Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor so your knees form 90-degree angles. Place your left foot on your right thigh. Pressing the left knee down gently with your left hand, slowly hinge forward from the waist until you feel a stretch in the outer hips. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Release and repeat on the other side.

04 of 05

Hip Flexor Stretch

Knee Pain Stretch: Front hip flexor stretch with chair and table
Mehroz Kapadia

Stand in front of a wall or sturdy table with your legs together and place a chair about one foot behind you. Using the wall for balance, place your right foot back behind you on the chair. Bend the left knee until you feel a stretch in the right hip flexor and quad. For a deeper stretch, push the chair farther away from the wall. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Release and repeat on the other side.

RELATED: 5 Easy, Everyday Hip Stretches for Anyone Who Sits All Day

05 of 05

Reclined Hip Twist

Knee Pain Stretch: reclined spinal twist hip rotation
Mehroz Kapadia

Lie face up on the floor with your legs straight and arms by your sides, palms up. Lift your left leg up to the ceiling and slowly let it fall over and across to the right side of your body, allowing the left foot to drop to the floor (bend the left knee or keep it straight, depending on what's comfortable). Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Release and repeat on the other side.

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  1. Paterson KL, Kasza J, Hunter DJ, et al. The relationship between foot and ankle symptoms and risk of developing knee osteoarthritis: data from the osteoarthritis initiativeOsteoarthritis Cartilage. 2017;25(5):639-646. doi:10.1016/j.joca.2016.12.003

  2. Raghava Neelapala YV, Bhagat M, Shah P. Hip muscle strengthening for knee osteoarthritis: A systematic review of literatureJ Geriatr Phys Ther. 2020;43(2):89-98. doi:10.1519/JPT.0000000000000214

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