If you’re one of 58.5 million adults who suffer from chronic knee or joint issues, you may be frustrated by your pain and/or lack of mobility. But joint strength exercises, stretches, and other measures can help repair weak knee ligaments and offer you relief. Read on to learn the 5 most efficient and effective methods of knee and joint strength recovery.
6 strategies to reduce stiffness and pain in knees and joints
- Joint strength exercises
Exercise and physical therapy are extremely beneficial for increasing joint strength and reducing pain and pressure in the knees. Exercise strengthens muscles, and stronger muscles can better support joints.
Strong muscles in the front of your thigh (quadriceps) and back of your thigh (hamstrings) help your knee joint absorb shock. By strengthening these muscles, the knee becomes more stable and bones experience less impact which, in turn, can reduce pain.
The less strain on your knee, the better the chances are for pain relief and preventing further injury. Experiment with exercises like leg raises, hamstring curls, step exercises, and squats while leaning against a wall to strengthen muscles and reduce pain in your joints.
For pain in your wrists, try squeezing a rolled up towel or what’s called “therapy putty,” a physical therapy tool.
Exercise also releases endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, as well as providing many other health benefits.
- Supplements for joint strength
If you suffer from knee osteoarthritis (the most common joint disorder, caused by wear and tear on the joint), supplements can help repair the cartilage in your joints. Chondroitin and glucosamine are thought to be some of the most effective, as they protect cells called chondrocytes, which help maintain cartilage structure. These supplements slow down the deterioration of cartilage in the joints, reducing pain in the process.
Another supplement that can help you regain joint comfort and strength is collagen. Collagen is the structural protein in skin, tendons, and bones. Collagen type II is the form in the cartilage lining the joints. Undenatured type II collagen (UC-II) supplements come from the breastbone of chickens. A recent study showed that UC-II reduced pain and stiffness, and improved function in knee osteoarthritis better than a placebo, and slightly better than glucosamine and chondroitin supplements.
- Knee and joint mobility massage
Before you can begin exercising to regain strength in your knees, it’s important to increase mobility. One method to begin mobilization is through massage. Massage therapy can reduce pain in the knee by releasing calcium deposits, which are one source of the pain.
To perform massage for knee pain relief, place your fingers under your kneecap, and slowly move them in a circular motion for three to five minutes. Reflexology techniques can also help.
- Soaking and stretches for knee pain
An old-fashioned but rather effective way of treating knee arthritis is dipping the knee in warm water and stretching it. For maximum benefit, stretch the knee under water that’s no hotter than 100° Fahrenheit and add a pinch of Epsom salts.
Warm salt water significantly reduces the gravity that weighs down on the joints while boosting the body’s levels of magnesium. It also decreases inflammation and swelling, reducing pressure and improving flexibility in the joints and muscles.
- Weight loss to reduce joint pain
Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing osteoarthritis in two ways. First, that extra weight puts added stress on your knee joints, even during normal, daily activities like walking or going up and down stairs. Secondly, inflammatory factors associated with weight gain may contribute to issues with other joints (such as the hands).
All this extra stress on the joints can speed up the breakdown of cartilage, increasing your risk of developing osteoarthritis. So those with a family history of arthritis have another important reason to try losing weight–even if just a few pounds.
“Being just 10 pounds overweight increases the force on your knees by 30 to 40 pounds with every step you take,” says Kevin Fontaine, PhD, assistant professor of rheumatology at Johns Hopkins University. It may come as no surprise, then, that obesity may raise your risk of developing osteoarthritis by four to five times.
- Stretches for joint strength and flexibility
Strengthening your muscles can help you stabilize and protect your joints, but stretching the muscles you strengthen is equally important–and it’s crucial for preventing injury. Strengthening exercises build muscle to help support your knee, but they can also tighten your muscles. And tight muscles are more prone to injury.
Gently stretching after doing your strengthening exercise can reduce muscle soreness, keep your muscles longer and more flexible, and further reduce joint pain. Stretch your quads and hamstrings to help with knee joint pain, and your shoulders, arms, wrists, and neck to help with pain in the hand and wrist joints.
Not all knee or other joint pain is serious. But certain knee injuries and medical conditions, such as osteoarthritis, can lead to more pain, joint damage, and even disability if left untreated. And having a knee injury — even a very minor one — can increase your risk of suffering similar injuries in the future.
Make sure to discuss your knee or other joint pain with your healthcare provider before making any major changes to your home exercise program, diet, or other lifestyle habits.