Published October 25, 2008
How to exercise with bad knees
I can't tell you how many times I've worked with a client who has bad knees. By now, I hope you've heard me say it enough that exercises like squats and lunges are some of the best types of exercises to do to burn off fat. But what happens when your knees won't allow it? Are there any ways to get around bad knees, but still be able to work on the lower body? The answer is yes.
Before we get into lower body exercises to do, I first want to get into upper body exercises to do. Your upper body is pain free, so you need to use that to your advantage. When I have clients with bad knees, I throw in lower body exercises from time to time, but since their upper body is OK, that's what we stick with most of the time. The important thing is to create circuit-type workouts that keep your upper body challenged during the entire workout. I might have a client do a row exercise, straight into a chest exercise, and back to a row. Or, if I'm in a gym, I may have a client do an upper body exercise, and then hop on a stationary bike, an elliptical, or a treadmill ... whichever their knees can handle. I would have them do a short 30-second or so burst on this machine and come back for another round of the upper body exercise. Whatever upper body exercises you do, make sure you have a general idea of what your workout is going to be because you want to make sure that you don't have a break in between wondering what to do next.
As far as lower body exercises go, we know that squats and lunges are out, so it's time to improvise. If you have access to weight machines, there's always the option of hopping on one of those, but I like to stay away from machines for the most part. Another option is to use a step. Now I know that steps are painful most of the time, but the steps you want to create barely come off the ground. Exercise steps, you know, those green or purple steps you can buy at any store with a fitness section, are perfect for these exercises. There are all kinds of exercises to do with a step. You can do balance exercises, side step ups, backward step ups, forward steps ups, you can add in shoulder presses, curls, raises, etc. with your step ups. Like I said, an exercise step is a great option to incorporate into your workout. Another great mode of exercise is using resistance/exercise tubes. I love these little things because they're extremely versatile. You can tie a big knot in it and wedge it under the door, or you can tie it around a pole. Once you do one of these, you can then tie the other end around your foot and start doing different leg exercises like bringing your knee to your chest, leg extensions, leg curls, leg kickbacks, leg holds with the tube tight, raising your leg out to the side or bringing it across your body. To incorporate a step into your exercise, you can place a step on top of the tube, and do different exercises while lying down on the tube. You can do different leg holds, leg raises, Butt Blaster-type exercises (kneeling on the ground and pushing your foot up toward the ceiling), etc. You need to be careful with these exercises, though, so make sure the tube is actually secure under the step so that it doesn't snap up and hit you.
So my suggestions, if you do have bad knees and want to lose weight, are make sure your calorie intake and eating habits are where they need to be. Incorporate step exercises and resistance tube exercises into your workouts. Make sure you maximize your effort with upper body exercises. Have your workouts planned out. Keep your intensity level up throughout your workouts. If you don't have any health issues that would prevent you from doing circuit training, then do circuit training, and make sure you find some method of cardio you can do (i.e. bike, walk, row machine, etc.). If you can incorporate these different techniques into your workouts, your bad knees shouldn't be what stops you from staying healthy and fit. As always, though, these are just suggestions. Make sure you get your doctor's approval before trying any of these exercise, as they may not be appropriate for your level of knee problems.
Dan Falkenberg, BA, ACE-CPT, NASM-PES
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90 comment(s) on this page. Add your own comment below.
I have rsd in my left knee and cant straighten it i am on crutches. I want to do only upper body work outs
Is the uliptical machine okay to go on. The stairmaster. I gain 40 lbs because of the pain of my knees.
Thanks for the comment. With bad knees, the stairmaster probably would cause you some problems. The elliptical, on the other hand, should be just fine. The important thing with the elliptical is to avoid bouncing. Keep you feet flat on it and move the pedals back and forth. Try not to get in a motion where you are bouncing up and down on your toes...that may hurt your knees. Hope that helps.
I had broken bone in my foot that has caused me pain and bad kneees, I cant put weight on the left knee or the right foot for too long, what can I do
I had broken bone in my foot that has caused me pain and bad kneees, I cant put weight on the left knee or the right foot for too long, what can I do
That's a tough one Barb. My thoughts are to listen to your body. There's not really anything specific I can say other than do what you can, and when you feel the pain, it's probably time to stop. I'm sure your doctor would have some ideas since he/she knows the extent of your injury.
I disagree that using a step is a good exercise for bad knees. In analyzing the source of my bad knees, I believe that mine originated from doing step aerobics religiously. While it was a low step, the continuous weight on the knees really did a number on them. Also, anything besides a total flat walking surface causes pain. Thanks anyway.
Hi Dan, is your new book coming out going to show the exercises that you mention above for bad knees? I had two surgeries on my right knee a couple of years ago and unfortunately it did not heal as I hoped it would so I would really love to see these exercises! Please let me know. Thanks.
Thanks for the question. You know, I wasn't planning on showing the exercises, but I may have to reconsider it now. Is there anything else you would like to see in the book? The goal of the book is to equipment readers with the knowledge of how to formulate their own programs, so if there is something you think would help, I'm all ears. Thanks Brandi.
I am 57 and have arthritis in my Right knee. Actually, the Orthopedic Doc showed me x-rays and said I have very little cartilage left in the inside of my knee. I can feel this when I have to walk a lot. I sometimes feel like it might give out on me. I have to walk a fair amount for my job. What do I do? The Dr. said to use a stationary bike and not a treadmill for exercise. Is there any other exercise I can do to strengthen the muscles?
Thank you, Becky
Thanks for the comment. I would suggest performing the different suggestions in the article as well as talking with a fitness professional where you exercise. He/she should be able to give you more personalized suggestions.
Hi Dan, my problem is that 4 years ago i dislocated my right knee and i didnt really follow up with physical therapy but it never bothered me up until i decided that i was sick of being over weight. My knee didnt bother me untiljust this month. It hurts when i run, and when i get up the next day it is so painful. I do dance on the side and my knee just cant take that. Should i just give in to my gut and go to the doctor? If so, what kind of a doctor do i go to for my knee? Thank you
I am 45 and have severe arthritis in my left knee. In need of a partial replacement. My weight has crept up over the years and after many years of high impact sports, my body seems to prohibit cardio exercises to help burn calories. Any advice for cardio that is easy on the knees?
Thanks for the comment/question. I would suggest working into a circuit-style resistance training program. It's not traditional "cardio", but that would actually be more effective than sitting on a bike or walking on a treadmill. As far as a tradtional-type cardio exercise, rowers or hand bike are two that are easier on the knees, but again, I would put more emphasis on resistance training. Hope this helps.
Im 22 and i blew out my right knee when i was 20. Due to that i lost my job as a security officer and i now work retail. sorry if my spelling is wrong. i want to get back in the millitary and do my part agin but i need to lose weight and strenthen my knee. Can you please help me with some sugestions so i can pass my pt test and not be hurting? Thank You, Cory Mercer
Thanks for the question. The first thing to keep in mind is to listen to your knee. If an exercise hurts your knee, then stop. You need to start out slowly and work up to a certain intensity. I would suggest big muscle movements. Chest exercises, squats, lunges, etc. Again, listen to your knee. I would start with body weight and exercise tubes or bands. Then work up to free weights. If I were you, I would consult with someone that can work with you personally. It's hard to give specific exercises without seeing how your knee reacts. Hope that helps.
Hello,I had four knee surgerys two on each knee, I need to loose weight. I've been riding my bike until I can't take the pain,then I'll do some free weight 2pws stretchs for the upper body I also have a back problem with my neck from a car accident,so what I do is I stand close to the wall and extend my arms and put my feet even with my arms then lean in as if I'm doing push ups,to start 20reps and increasing everyday, then I touch my Knees but on a good-day I can go a little more, taking deep breath, and change my diet to a diadetic diet "no" I don't have it,is Thier no way I can sit on the floor. I can walk too far and stand long peroits at a time my legs feel as they going to break Dr. no more sugeries....?
I have Osgood-Schlatter Disease, Chondromalacia Patella, Dislocating Patella, Tendonitis, and Bursitis in knee right knee, and I play soccer for my high school varsity team and a club team. I am very active and wear a brace whenever I do something that requires effort from my knee, but it still hurts even on days when I don't excercise. What are some things I could do?
Thanks for the question. I'm sure you're already doing this, but stretching and strengthening exercises for the muscles around the knee is a top priority. If you haven't already, I would talk with your athletic trainer at your school about exercises. He/she would be able to help you a lot more than me because they would be able to work with you day in and day out and see how you respond.
I'm a 17 year old girl and I've got mild pain in my knee for over 2 months now. I can't think of what exactly triggered it but I was cycling at the time(trip to Holland) now I'm back home I try to exercise on a daily basis, yoga one day then about 1.5-2 miles on the treadmil the next day and so on(break on weekends). I do all this at home, I don't have the time to go to the gym with all my studies, so there is no personal trainer I could ask. But I started yoga more than a year ago so that can't be the problem. As you can imagine, I'm putting a lot of strain on the knee and it's not my weight. When I'm up and about and exercising I feel no pain what so ever, it's only when I bend them and when I wake up in the morning that it hurts. I've thought of going to the doctor, but I know that they'll just x-ray my knee(I've had quite a few these years, so I really don't want one unless its vital)and give me some pain relief. My mother suggested I give my knee a rest for a couple of weeks and if I see an improvement then I should wait for the pain to go completely before starting exercise. But I just hate the idea of doing nothing for weeks. So my question is: could I walk on the treadmil instead of jogging and if yes how long for? And should I stop the yoga as some poses do put a fair bit of pressure on the knees. Are there any cardio exercises I could do that doesn't involve bending my knees? I should also add that I have fairly mild scoliosis, visible but not crippling. And one final point, for a few years now my knees and elbows cruch when bended, no pain though. Does exercising make these things worse? Thank you so much for your time.
Thanks for your question. Being that your 17, you're most likely still growing. I would start a stretching program to help lengthen your muscle connections around your joints. I would also suggest seeing a doctor even though you don't want to. Go to a sports medicine doctor because he/she will be able to give you a more specific course of action. Hope that helps.
Dan, Thanks for your suggestions. Where should I look for exercises if I have bad knees and a bad back? I have a herniated disk in the middle of my back and a vertebrae in the lower back that likes to move out of place. I am overweight so I think I should start with cardio to lose some of the weight first. What do you suggest?
Thanks for your question. As I told Miriam, I would check with a sports medicine doctor. Bad knees and a bad back are very relative and until a doctor knows exactly what is causing all your pain, I wouldn't start exercising. I would suggest you start with improving your nutrition. Think of energy in vs. energy out. If you can't currently exercise, then you're not having a lot of energy leave your body. This means you shouldn't eat a lot of energy (calories). Find that balance and that will be a great start.
I thoroughly enjoy running, and have run on the treadmill for the last 2 years. I am 48 years old and have managed to shave off close to 100 pounds in the last 5-6 years. I am currently at 142 pounds (5'4" tall) and have found that the scale has stubbornly refused to move in the last 8 months. I have been plagued with IT band issues, not in the knees themselves, but up in the hips, as well as have had a hip flexor issue for the last few months. In addition, I have RA, and am incapable of squatting in any shape or form. My knees are very bad, but running does not seem to aggrivate it...yet! I am hoping you might be able to give me some insight as to what I could do to heal the IT bands as well as hip flexor issues? I definitely want to keep running and shave off the last 20 or so pounds. Thank you!
Thanks for the comment. Without knowing the actual problem with your IT band and hip flexor, it's hard to say. If they are just tight, I would suggest foam rolling them. It might not be a bad idea to get a new pair of good running shoes too, and possibly orthotics through a podiatrist. Your body is like a chain, and if your feet aren't planting correctly when you step, that imbalance works its way up the boding causing, knee, hip, back and shoulder problems. Hope that helps, and great job with the results!
I Have had an injured knee for 8 years now, and currently have a strained medial ligament. It is getting a bit better, and I really need to get in better shape. I lift weights, but really need to add some cardio, and was thinking about getting a rowing machine. Do you think this could be worthwhile or might make things worse?
Cheers, Dan B
Thanks for the question. Do you have a knee brace to help prevent side-to-side movement of you knee? I think it would be worth a visit to physical therapy to discuss if this is necessary. A rowing machine deals with flexion and extension, so as long as your knee is braced, this should be possible. Still, you should have your knee assessed by a sports med doc and most likely rehabbed by a physical therapist first. Don't mean to give you the run around, but it's too hard to say what you can and cannot do without knowing and seeing the level of the strain. A sports med doc is who can make this call. Good luck!
I HAVE AWAYS LIEFT WEIGHTS I STEAL DO BUT I HAVE KNEE PAIN ALSO CANT NOT DO LUNGES.NEED SOME THING FOR BUTT, AND LEGS.
I started Zumba and was doing great for a couple of weeks. I know I over did it - doing 1 to 2 1/2 hours a night but I enjoyed it and I was really motivated to lose weight and it was working. I took this last week off due to other obligations. For the last 3 days of that week, I am having burning, pain and a "going out" feeling in my left knee. Started out as annoying but seems to be getting worse each day to the point of now hurting and burning while sitting. This pain is not excruciating but still bothersome and is much worse when walking. Should I wait to see how it does before beginning Zumba again? I didn't do the big lunges, did smaller squats and did fewer jumps, etc... than they do on the video but still a very good workout. It seems every time I get motivated and start exercising, something happens. Of course, I always start out gung-ho which I know is a mistake. No major health problems except fibromyalgia/CFS. HELP!!! I'm having Zumba withdrawals!! :)
I broke my right femur bone 4 years ago and ever since then my knee hurts with certain movements and i cant really work out because of it... but i need to work out my thighs what do you suggest? thank you!
Hi Dan, About 6 years ago I tore my meniscus(left knee) on a hiking trip. The cartilage is too thin so there was no way to repair it. Are there any low impact exercises a person could do without putting too much strain on the knee? I have tried everything from walking a track to gym equipment and with all of those things I still have severe knee pain. My weight has been slowly creeping up and I would like to find something that works before it is too late.Thank you!
Hi Dan, I have trained myself to eat better and I have been walking at least 5 days a week for 35 minutes a day. I did lose 19lbs so far. but my question is, what is better for walking, the treadmill or walking outdoors with small hills?
Hi Vickie, Tammie, Karina, and Sherri,
Try using exercise tubes and bands. You can pick up a set at any sporting goods store. I use these with fibromyalgia clients, and they work great. I would also make sure to check with your doctor to make sure you are clear to exercise. I would also suggest watching your eating habits. For some clients, it's next to impossible to do any type of lower body exercise. This means that in order to lose or maintain weight levels, healthy eating with proper portion sizes is a must. Also, upper body exercises are still a great way to burn calories. Remember, just because you exercise your legs doesn't mean you lose fat in your legs. Fat on the body comes off however it wants to come off. Working your upper body can cause fat to melt in the legs, stomach, upper body, etc. The key is calorie burn, and working the upper body creates that. Read this article for more info: http://www.columbussports.com/content/writers/dan_falkenberg/putting-it-to-rest-spot-reduction.shtml
Keep up the great work!
I favor walking outdoors anytime. You could always switch it up so that you don't get bored. Walking hills is a great workout, and overall, walking outside is better because you have to pace yourself instead of relying on a treadmill to push your feet along. Walking outside creates more resistance. If you're having trouble deciding, though, pick whichever you like best. The most important thing is to stay active, and if walking on a treadmill means you're more likely to workout and enjoy it, then choose the treadmill. If you like walking outside, do that. Hope that helps!
My first question is that I have always had bad knees since probably high school, they started to feel ok in college but every time I would hit the gym, they would instantly get pain in my knees. I've been to the doctors and they tell me I need to quit working out (which isn't happening) or figure out a new workout to help build my knees back to athletic shape. My second question is that I have also had shoulder surgery a few years ago after a accident in the gym. I have tried returning to the gym after surgery but that didn't last long. I have also tried doing workouts on DVDs with my friends but as of now NOTHING has worked. Since I last hit the gym I have gained about 30 lbs and I need to get it off. I guess I'm afraid to get injured again. Any advice you can give me to get back in the gym and what workouts would you recommend. Thanks buddy!
Thanks for the question. As far as your knees, the first thing I would find out is if it is a mechanical issue with your knees or a muscle issue. For example, weak hip rotator muscles could cause your knees to track incorrectly ... causing pain. If there is an actual mechanical problem, i.e. the knee joint has an injury, then that's a different story. It might not be a bad idea to have the knee problem diagnosed again to see what's wrong and see if there are any strength and stretching exercises you can do to help the pain go away. I would have your shoulder looked at for the same reason as well. From what I can tell, it would be very beneficial for you to first work on the integrity of those two joints before working out too intensely. If you can do that, hopefully you'll be able to slowly work your way back into workouts that you enjoy.
Hope this helps.
I have a bad back knees and hips and it hurts when i move but i weigh 333 lbs and want to know what i can do to lose weight
I've had dislocating patellas most of my life, but used to be quite an athlete. I'm now 52 and 50 lbs over weight. I had one total knee replacement about 3 yrs ago, so it is now mostly pain free, but I have never gotten the strength back in it so it's very weak. My other knee is stronger but has pain. I have a step and really like what you wrote about making use of that along with upper body workouts. However, I'm not sure I understand how to create a circuit training program for myself. Can you define that a little better for me?
Thank you! Chris
A circuit-type workout is very easy to create. In fact, you can get as creative as your mind takes you. For example, doing 20 step-ups followed by jumping jacks for 30 seconds, and back to step-ups again is an example of a circuit. Circuit training is great to elevate the heart rate too. Hope that helps.
I would suggest working on your nutrition habits first and foremost. Also, getting outside and walking would be a great start. With nutrition, start eating healthier options and less of each option. It may be a good idea to meet with a personal trainer/dietician in your area so they can help design a plan for you. Most importantly, take action! Hope that helps.
I need knee replacement surgery on my left knee, but due to work schedule have to wait until after the holidays. (3 months). Everything I do....biking, rowing machine....all hurt. Is it best to give up any kind of leg work until after surgery? The pain is horrible. Any suggestions?
Thanks - Susan
Is swimming an option? It may be tough to be active until after the surgery. I'm assuming walking isn't an option either. You could always try exercises with resistance tubes/bands. You can pick these up at your local sporting goods store. If your activity level has to be decreased until after the surgery, then the big thing to focus on is nutrition. Make sure your eating habits are where they need to be so that you don't see a negative change in your body composition. Hope the surgery goes well and you have a quick rehab/recovery.
Hi Dan, I am 50 years old and have severe osteoarthritis in my knees and lower back. My left leg is almost an inch longer than my right one. Since April 2010, I have been having trouble with my knees. First the right, and now the left one also. I am walking bone on bone in both knees and wear unloader braces on my legs. I so far have not found a surgeon who will give me replacements because I am "too young". I have no quality of life and constantly feel like I have knives stabbing both knees. The right knee developed many stress fractures earlier this year that extended into the fibula, and I was bedridden for 5-6 months. I have gained so much weight despite not eating much. I am so depressed when I see pictures of myself and I want to lose weight really badly but I am scared to exercise because it seems like when I do anything- even walking around a mall- I am in so much pain that I cry. PLEASE give me some hope. I really have to lose the weight because it is causing even more distress on my knees. I have a Gazelle, a bike, and some free weights to work with. No pool available or I would be in one for sure. Any help is appreciated! Lori
I would really work hard on making sure you are eating right. I know you said you don't eat much, but it would be worth keeping a food log to really see if you idea of not eating a lot is really the right amount of calories your body needs. Also, even though you said you don't have a pool available, you may want to consider finding a gym that has one and joining it. Pool exercises are great in these kind of situations. Also, go buy some exercise tubes at your local sporting goods store and start using those to workout. They come with a manual full of exercises to do. Activity and nutrition, anybody can alter these to be healthier, and in your case, so can you. Keep that up, talk to a doctor again after you try these changes for a year, and see if their tune changes on what they suggest the course of treatment for your knee issues should be. Hope that helps. Keep it up!
I am 36 years old, and years ago when I was 17 and 18 I had surgery on both my knees to fix severe ligament damage. Ever since then, I do not have the full range of motion in both knees, and it has restricted many things I want to do in life. I've gotten used to it, but right now I really want to try and lose about 20-30 pounds. But due to this "handicap", there is not a lot of exercising that I can do since I don't have the full range of motion. I know to cut down on the calorie intake and watch what I eat, but besides walking, what else can I do? I can't even walk that far without my knees starting to hurt. I usually walk about 10 minutes at a time, three times a day. Help! Thanks!
When you say "full range of motion", what do you mean? Does the pain prevent the full range of motion or are you mechanically unable to get full range of motion?
I think both pain and I'm mechanically unable to get full range of motion. Like I said, I suffered bad ligament damage when I was younger, my kneecaps kept popping out of place (and the left one still does it sometimes now) and I ended up having emergency surgery. Ever since then, I haven't been able to get the full range of motion. But yes, mostly it's due to pain I think. Thanks, Sarah
This may be an obvious suggestion, but did you ever have physical therapy? I would bust out the exercises they gave you. Not only will it help burn off the calories, it will also address the range of motion. Two other ideas, get a membership to an indoor pool and buy exercise tubes. The pool is a great resource for range of motion issues because the water, itself, provide resistance. Also, exercise tubes at your local sporting goods store are great because they allow for a variety of exercises ... a lot can address range of motion issues, plus, they can create very easy to very intense exercises. Googling "exercise/resistance tube exercises" will give you a huge variety of things to try. Also, I know you mentioned you are aware of calorie intake, but just as a reminder, calories in needs to be less than calories out. Even if you think you are eating "healthy", if you're consuming more calories then you are burning off, it will be impossible to burn fat. Hope that helps.
Hi Dan, thanks so much for the reply and advice. Yes I did have physical therapy, but I never regained the range of motion. It's been so long I don't even remember the exercises they gave me! LOL Just one more question..after all these years, is it even possible to regain my range of motion? I mean, it's been almost 20 years. Even with the exercises you suggest, can it even happen? Thanks....Sarah
If you really put your mind to it and commit to working on range of motion, if it is more related to soft tissue (tendons, ligaments, muscles), then yes. If it is more related to one bone inhibiting another, then most likely not. It's hard to say without knowing exactly what's wrong, and since I'm not a doctor or physical therapist, I would suggest consulting them to see what is possible. My thinking, you can do almost anything you put your mind to. :)
Hi, i am 31 and have had 4 operations on my left knee , 3 arthroscopys and 1 ACL reconstruction.
My first OP was when i was 21 and my last op was 3 months ago, my problem is that my knee gets repaired and then i start to work out very lightly slow walks and upper body training, but my knee always stops me training harder because im fearfull of damaging it again. (I have had Physio, but honestly they are useless)
i have put on 4 stone since my first op and really want to loose the weight, any help would really be appreciated as im at the point where im thinking of giving up trying.
Is the weight issue a physical limitation or a psychological limitation? It sounds like it's more psychological. I know plenty of athletes/former teammates who have had ACL surgery and have continued to play competitive sports after the rehab. Talk with your surgeon about limitations. If there aren't any, then go for it. There is plenty you can do to lose weight without having to do extreme high impact exercises. Also, make sure you're eating right. That is one thing I'm sure your surgeon told you. Even with physical limitations, individuals can still eat properly to control their weight. Calories in need to be less than calories out. Remember that.
Hi Dan, to me it seems like a physical limitation as light excercise causes swelling and then a week of pain till the swelling goes down, my consultant says that i should take it easy and any sport involving high impact should be avoided.
i do think that there is a psychological limitation as im scared that i will hurt my knee again. i am eating so much better in the last 2 years as i know it is the only way for me to control my weight but it seems that i have plataued and cant get any more weight off.
Very interesting. Is your consultant a surgeon? It might be worth making a visit to your surgeon to see what's going on. I can't imagine that pain and swelling after light exercise is the norm; that's your body's way of telling you something isn't right. There may be something else that is causing an issue in your knee since it is still swelling and causing a week's worth of pain. Glad you recognize the importance of eating right.
Like Nick before, I too experience "swelling and then a week of pain till the swelling goes down" in both knees but especially the right one. At 52, i am maintaining my weight at 131 but I am short, just under 5', so it is relative. I used to keep a food log but it's been years, maybe four or five. I was also in a car accident a few years back and my neck and shoulder are painful though I had months of care and PT. But I believe I can still find some upper body exercises to do. Any specific suggestions? My second question is, can soaking in the bathtub create the same effect on the knees as the swimming pool? Third and final, does the treadclimber, part elliptical and part treadmill, really work with bad knees?
Thanks for the questions. Since I don't know the extent of your past injuries, it's hard to say what will work. Many times, it's a learning process. If one exercise hurts and one doesn't, then it's easy to know what to do. As a general recommendation, I would start out with rows and chest presses. These target your largest muscle groups in your upper body, and the more large muscle groups you work, the more calories you burn.
As far as a soaking bath, my suggestions with a pool had more to do with exercise. Exercising in a pool is low impact and is very useful for individuals with joints issues. As far as soaking, soaking in an ice bath/icing your knees after exercising will help to reduce the pain and swelling. Sorry Nick, forgot to tell you that.
As far as the treadclimber, that would probably be the least recommended because it would be hardest on your knees. The elliptical would be best because it is the least impact. (I've found that some can handle the elliptical, but surprisingly, some have issues with it.) The treadmill should be fine too because it simulates everyday walking. Try them, and you be the judge of them on your knees. It's all about figuring out how much your body can take.
Hi, I'm just wondering if knee pain when you start to exercise is normal? Or if you should always stop? I have good shoes & wear orthotics (super high arches), but if I go walking (or running) for more than a minute or two,my knees start to get achy. The pain is only about a 3/10. I have been completely inactive for about five years. I just don't know if I should stop completely because it hurts and maybe a warning, or if it is supposed to hurt a little when you start weight bearing exercise? Oh, and I'm 34, no surgeries or injuries, and in the normal weight for my height. Thanks very much!!
Considering you aren't aware of anything that is causing the knee pain, it would be good to see a doctor. For someone that hasn't had any injuries, knee pain isn't normal. It's your body's way of saying you need to investigate it. It could be something as simple as a muscle imbalance that can be corrected through certain exercises. Hope that helps.
I'm 40 years old and obese. I have not always had a weight problem. It started in my early 30s when I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. Then, with the birth of 2 children in my mid/late 30s, my weight was really getting out of control.... and it's gotten worse. I am considerably heavier now than when I was 9 months pregnant with my second child. Need to lose about 150lbs. Despite all of this I had no knee problems.
Then 1 year ago, I fell down a flight of steps in my home landing with one leg out in front of me and the other bent behind me. I feel like that day my life as I knew it was over. My knee was very sore and my movement restricted, but I was not immobile. After several months i did see a docter and was diagnosed with a torn meniscus. I had surgery to repair it (10 months after the intial fall) and am due for my 8 week post op check up next week. My problem is that I spent so much time favoring my bad knee that my "good" knee is now worse than the bad knee ever was. My "good" knee has been the primary weight baring leg for almost a year now. I know that I need to take off the weight, but my knees hurt so bad now that I can't even take a simple walk. It's painful for me to walk from room to room in my own house. I'm really struggling emotionally. I am for all essential purposes, crippled... and in alot of pain. But I am determined to take some of this weight off. Should I just push thru the pain or will I cause more damage? What excercises should I attempt first.
First things first ... you need to run all this by your doctor. There may be issues in the "good" knee that may limit exercise, but there may not. See what your doctor says first. You shouldn't leave that visit until you know whether or not exercise is going to damage your knee further. Let me know how it goes.
Dan, I'm 49 and have significant pain in both knees. I'd like to lose 15 pounds. I'd love to see your exercise suggestions in a DVD workout. Any good dvd's out there specifically for people with painful knees?
That's a very good question. Nothing comes to mind, but I'm sure there are DVDs out there that address this issue. Sorry I don't have any recommendations.
Hi Dan, i am 58 and have and one total knee replacement and am looking at another on my other knee. My husband thinks I should be able to walk up and down about 120 (240) steps to go to the beach. Thing he does not understand is it is very painful and not recommended by my orthopedic surgeon. What do you think?
Thanks for the question. Having known others that have had total knee replacements, I understand how intense the recovery process can be. I've also seen that the "good" knee ends up getting worse after the other knee is replaced because of the compensation that is placed on the "good" knee during the recovery process. While knee replacements are great for bringing an improved quality of life to a person, they don't necessarily allow an individual to do activities that someone with two "good" knees can do. That's a lot of steps. I would trust what your surgeon has told you.
Would really appreciate your advice. I used to do a lot of dance classes (swing mostly) when I was in my teens as well as daily step aerobics, but by 17 my left knee dislocated while I was doing a turn in a dance class. As it turned out I have joint hypermobility. My recovery took about a year (I dislocated it a second time whilst in recovery and physio!) and since then I've been terrified of exercising.
Of course, because of this fear I've now gained a fair amount of excess weight over the years (I'm 25 now) and need to lose 4 stone to get back down to a healthy weight for my height and to take the pressure off my joints. I find any sort of pressure on my knees to be quite painful (such as climbing stairs or carrying heavy weights).
I'm thinking of buying an exercise machine to help at home but I'm torn about which would be best for me - between a cross trainer and a treadmill.
Any advice would be very much appreciated. Thankyou.
Thanks for the question. First, I will refer you to a blog post I wrote on this matter: http://www.danfalkenberg.com/2008/09/elliptical-trainer-treadmill-or-bike-which-is-the-most-effective/. Second, in your case, I would go visit a gym that has both and try them out. If you don't have a gym membership, see if you can tag along with a friend who does. From there, you can compare which one suits you best. Hope that helps.
I am 47 and i've had a dvt in my left leg, also i was told that i have arthritis in my left knee. My knee hurts when ever i try to take a walk i've gained weight because of the dvt & the arthritis in my knee. what can i do to ease the pain & swelling from both of the problems in my left leg.
Icing your knee after walking will help with the swelling in the knee. I would talk with your doctor about swelling in your leg to make sure everything is okay. Hope that helps.
dan, hi i am 31 years old i have a mulisulin lateral tear in my knee and due to no medical i have to suffer with it, but i think if i can loose some wieght it might help the pain. what exercise equipment you think whould be good for me?
Unfortunately, I'm not going to be much help with this one. Recommending exercises for someone with a tear is a little out of my scope of practice without you having seen a doctor or gone through therapy first. Sorry I couldn't be of more help.
I have noticed that Dan has not mentioned a Pilates machine with a rebounder.I have arthritis in both knees,and tore a ligament in both knees,had micro surgery on them.For people with knee problems,the pilatas machine would be good,it will strengthen your knees,and the rebounder which is like being on a trampoline laying down gives a very good cardio workout.you can work your whole body.It has certainly helped me.
Hey there Dan, I don't know if you will have any advide for me, but I am 22 years old, and when I was about 16 I hurt I knee. I remember I fell down trying to climb over a gate n landed, like right on my knee. For the past 6 years I have been having pain in my right knee. I thought maybe by exercisig I could heal it on my own, but I cannot support ANY weight on it. Like when I have to get up, walk up stairs, squat to pick something up, etc. I always put all of my weight on my right side. When I do TRY to put weight on my left side I feel like I'm going to fall down (Sometimes I do...). So, without insurance to go to the doctor, what could I do to mske this better?
Thanks for the question. Considering you had a traumatic experience to your knee and it has been hurting for 6 years, I'm hesitant to suggest any exercises. Typically, if we know there isn't any damage to the knee or no further damage can be caused, there are strengthening and stretching exercises you can do, but in this case, the pain you're experiencing is your body telling you that something isn't right inside. If your knee is hurting you to the point that you can't put any weight on it, I can't recommend anything but to have it checked out by a doctor. It would run you a couple hundred bucks at most for a visit to a sports medicine doctor. It think it's worth it. You don't want to going on living in pain like this, and you definitely don't want to cause further damage to your knee. Sorry if this wasn't the answer you were looking for, but it's the only answer a can give you for this.
I have a personal training client who has lost almost 30lbs by training with me and of course, eating a clean healthy diet. Everytime she gets on the stepmill, she says her quads burn unbelievably - she describes it as lactic acid build up. it's so painful that she cannot continue, however, as soon as she gets off the stepmill, the pain dissapates. I've made sure she is putting her whole foot on the step, not leaning on the rails, keeping her body upright, pushing through her heelbut nothing seems to change it. it's the same on the elliptical. her knees do bother her but we have worked hard at strengthening her quads, hams, glutes, we stretch. her diet is very clean, protein, complex carbs, good fats, flax seed. she takes a good multi vit/mineral and b complex. i'm at a loss and i don't understand why she is having such 'burning' pain. any ideas? suggestions? she also takes topomax and lexapro. thanks!
Thanks for the question. I you ever tried and other step-type exercises ... boxes, platforms, stairs, etc.? If so, did she have pain with those? Also, do wall squats cause the same pain? Is the pain radiating to any other areas besides her quads? I know you said she describes it as lactic acid build-up, but can she pinpoint an exact area where the pain is, or is it her entire quad?
Dear Dan, I have been a fitness instructor for many years and still conduct Aerobics classes. I am crazy about exercising and keeping fit. I used to do skipping for 45 mins. everyday, and used to really enjoy it. I do yoga, weight training also. My problem is that i had a slight ligament tear in my left knee when I was around 30 and learning Aerobics, but I became well and have been conducting Aerobics classes for the past 17/18 years without any problem. Now that I am in my 50s, I feel any vigorous jumping , like jumping Jacks, Straight jumps etc. starts to bother my knees. Infact, I had to stop skipping because i had a stroke some 12 years back, from which too I got back fine and started low impact aerobics. I had to stop skipping for my right side is a little slower than the left side, though i could still do straight jumping in skipping my foot would get stuck with the slight delay in coordination.. But I could still do jumping Jacks and straight jumps without the skipping rope. Coming to the point, for the last 2 years I am finding that such exertions are giving me sudden pain in knees, I would have to stop take a few days rest . Now I have bought a mini trampoline from reebok which is very good and I enjoy working out in it, but my knees start hurting when i jump on it. I had always wanted a trampoline, and when I finally got one , I find I am not able to do much on it. I have read it is good for the knees and ankles and the whole body , but other than bouncing vigorously I cannot do much, for although I do , for i am unable ot resist, at the end I am left with severe pain. I am doing these jumps correctly only, I not doing them wrong. Because of my age too, I have put on lot of weight due the hormones that act like crazy during these times. I also work out 2 hours in the gym doing all the cardio and the weight training, plus this rebounding, and yoga too some times, but none of these healthy activities are helping me in any way. I have neither lost weight, nor able to build a well toned body, nor find any relief from my knee pain. The doctor told me for my age and activity I have very slight beginning of ROeteoporosis, and nothing to worry just do the things i have been doing , and remember to give it a good rest when ever it causes me some pain. Now I want some advise from you, how I can make use of this trampoline effectively and not get knee pain also. I really love it, and I truly believe it is the safest exercise equipment in the world. I am sorry,I am bothering you. but please any sound suggestions would always be welcome. Thank you, Rama Ananth.
Thanks for the question. I have to be honest, I'm not too familiar with exercising on a trampoline. I normally see trampoline work used for reaction time and power exercises. For example, throwing a medicine ball against the trampoline for power or a reaction ball against it for reaction time. Also, exercise for coordination and balance (1-legged throws) can be used with a trampoline. Other than jumping, doing lunges, squats, and step-ups, I'm not sure what other leg exercises you can do with it. I hope this helps give you some direction.
Dan my problem is that im bone on bone i have seen dr. and he told i need total knee replacement the only problem that that he has and i do also is im only 44yrs old i know if i lose weight it will help me to avoid the surgery for while. what exercises do u suggest for me to do? thank you Javie C
That's a hard one to answer without seeing what you can tolerate. If your doctor told you you can do what is tolerable, then I would let your knee pain dictate what you do. If you have restrictions, then I would follow those. A lot of times, doing exercises in the pool will help. The first thing is to make sure you are eating at a calorie deficit and making healthy eating choices. The second thing is to be as active as your doctor says you can be to start burning off more calories. Weight loss comes from a calorie deficit. You have to burn off more calories than you consume. Being active and eating less calories is a great base to start with. Hope this helps.
Dan, my problem is much like a lot of the others that have posted comments/questions here. I have had knee problems since I was around 5th grade. I have been to countless Orthopedic surgeons, had 5 knee surgeries on my right knee since 1988, the last being a total knee replacement in 2008 when I was 40 yrs old. Other surgeons that I have talked to have said they never would have done a replacement on someone of my age but the surgeon that did it said he wanted to give me "quality of life". In 2010 I had swelling in my legs due to 15 blood clots between both legs. I believe the swelling cause tissue damage around the replacement. I cannot have another surgery due to the blood thinners I will be taking the rest of my life. My Left knee is going in the same direction as the right, Chondromalacia/arthritis is to blame for both knees. I am almost 100 lbs over weight and I NEED to drop the pounds as quickly as possible for health reasons. I have bought countless workout DVDs but it gets frustrating when I can't keep up due to pain and weakness in my knees. I have heard pilates would be a good option. I have reduced my caloric intake to 1200 a day, what else would you suggest would benefit my situation? exercises/workout DVDs? Tired of feeling like I'm 90 years old. Thanks for you help. ~Angela
Thanks for your question. Two things I would start with would be creating a food log and writing everything you eat in the food long for 1 week. Include portion sizes, time of day, and calories. Calorieking.com is a great site for checking calorie amounts. I would also track how much water you are drinking per day. You need to be drinking half your body weight in fluid ounces. For example, if you weigh 100 lbs., you should drink 50 fl. oz. per day. The second thing I would do is look into swimming. This may be a better option for your knees. You don't necessarily need to swim laps, but look into classes and exercises that you can do in a pool.
One other thing is you may want to look into hiring a personal trainer at your gym. They will definitely be able to customize a plan for you that will work with your knee pain. Hope this helps.
I just recently had an accident, I broke my left wrist and tore my acl in my right knee.. I am having trouble finding some kind of work out to do that doesnt cause me pain. any suggestions?
Thanks for the question. I'm afraid this is out of my scope of practice. I would suggest seeing a physical therapist and being cleared by him/her before starting an exercise program. Sorry I couldn't be of more help. I hope you have a quick recovery.
I too have severe right knee pain, but I just recently had weight loss surgery and finally got the go to start exercising, my question to you is what kind of exercises can I do? I try to walk my large dog twice a day, but due to his size he pretty much pulls me and I can hardly make it around the block. Walking seems to make it worse, I have been using hand weights for a couple of weeks now, but need something more?? any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!! Thanks
Thanks for the question. I would try two options. The first one would be to do more upper body exercises. The second one would be to start with body weight exercises for your lower body. This could be as simple as doing squats for X number of seconds. As you progress, you will notice how your knee feels and be able to make things harder or easier from there. An easier exercise than squats would be certain resistance tube exercises that you can find online or in the resistance tube kit you buy at a sporting goods store, holding onto something in front of you heavy enough to support your body weight and squatting (i.e. squats while holding onto your kitchen countertop, etc.), squats in the water, etc. Hope this helps.
I use to work out alot. My legs were very strong. Is it possible that I damaged my knees with weights Thanks
With advanced osteoarthritis of the knee, is it ok to do sculling/rowing/crew, considering bending and pushing off strongly with your legs is part of the rowing movement as you pull back?
Thanks for the question. As a general approach, exercise is encouraged for those suffering from osteoarthritis. While exercise is encouraged, rowing may be a little too intense for an osteoarthritic knee. As a general rule, I would exercise to the level that your knee can handle. If it's extremely painful, then it's probably too intense. To be cautious, I would advise talking to an orthopedists/your doctor who would have better insight on this.