Knee pain is one of the more disruptive forms of chronic pain. If you have pain in your knees, then it will prevent you from engaging in a range of different types of exercise and it will make a number of regular activities from walking to sitting more painful.
The good news is that often it is possible to address knee pain and reverse it. The key is to recognize what the cause of your knee pain is so that you can treat it in the most effective way possible.
If the pain is felt behind the knee, then this might be caused by a popliteal synovial cyst. This is a fluid-filled cyst that appears at the back of the leg, often in response to arthritis or cartilage damage. It can go away on its own over time.
Otherwise, a range of injuries to the tendons, hamstring, or PCL can all cause pain behind the knee. Fortunately, if this is the case, then you can engage in a number of different stretches in order to address and solve the problem. Read on for a range of hamstring rehabilitation exercises that might solve your problem.
1. Standing Hamstring Stretch
Stand normally in front of a chair or a low stool and then place one foot in front of the other so that the heel is resting on the raised platform. Note that even if only one side hurts, you should always stretch both legs in order to avoid uneven flexibility.
With the leg extended here, now you should reach forward as though you are trying to touch that toe. You’ll feel a tight pull in the back of the leg very early on. Don’t push this to the point of pain, but hold it just at the point where it is mildly uncomfortable.
2. Hamstring Stretch on Wall
Another option is to lie down so that you are in the doorway. Your legs should be in one room and your upper body will be in the other. Now raise one leg and get as close to the side where the hinge isn’t as you can. You’re going to put your affected leg straight up so that it is resting against the wall and you’re going to get it as vertical as you can.
Again, hold this position for a few seconds at the point where you can feel the stretch but it doesn’t hurt.
3. Standing Calf Stretch
This exercise will work the calves which you should also be training to try and improve in these circumstances. Stand near a wall again, plant both hands flat against it, and then lean forward with one leg outstretched behind you. Again, you should feel that slight tightness in the back of the leg. The other leg will be bent forward.
4. Prone Knee Bend
This one is a little easier: simply lie flat on your stomach and chest with your arms folded and your chin/face resting in them. Now you’re going to raise one leg behind you and curl your heel up to your buttocks. Hold this just enough to create a slight stretch.
If you can’t feel the stretch, then you can always ask a friend to gently push down on that leg for you. Otherwise, hold for a while and then move onto a harder stretch. This is a great starting exercise to warm yourself up into the other movements.
5. Chair Lift
No, you’re not going to be riding up to the top of a ski-slope!
Rather, the idea behind the chair lift is to engage your hamstrings in a mild workout in order to stretch them while also building some strength. To do this, you will lie flat on your back with your arms by your side and with a chair just in front of you.
Lift your legs so that your heels are resting on the chair and then push down into the chair with them. This should be enough to raise your buttocks and lower spine off the ground. This movement is a good bodyweight exercise that you can use to build hamstring strength and it will also stretch them. Building strength in the hamstrings is generally a good way to prevent further injury and to improve the condition!
6. Bodyweight Squat
Many people mistakenly believe that something like a squat would be the worst movement they could perform when struggling with knee pain. In fact, though, gentle exercise with the right technique can be one of the best options for rehabilitation.
A bodyweight squat is a perfect example, as long as you have the right technique. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and facing just slightly outward. Then lower your buttocks toward the ground to the point where it is parallel or slightly lower, and push back up. In time, you can build up to using a weight too to further strengthen and fortify the hamstrings.
Likewise, a lunge or bodyweight lunge can be a great choice for stretching and strengthening the hamstrings. Just stand up and then lunge forward onto one leg so that it is bent and the other leg is trailing, bent behind you.
You should essentially now perform a one-legged squat forward before standing back up. Just be careful to only use this movement if you are stable and steady when balancing: a twist or slip at this point can re-injure the knee.
8. Slump Stretch
This is a strange-sounding move indeed! To perform, sit onto a chair and then ‘slump down’ slightly with one leg pointing up. You should feel this place a slight stretch along the back of the leg. From here, you can then point the toes toward yourself and bring your head and shoulders down further to tighten that stretch.
The great thing about the slump stretch is that you can practice it anywhere that you might be sitting: whether at work, in a home office, or even on a plane or train!
9. Resisted Hamstring Curl
The easiest way to use this movement is in the gym, where you can use the hamstring curl machine in order to curl a weight up toward your buttocks. It’s a great workout for the hamstrings and an excellent way to stretch and build muscle.
For those that don’t have access to the gym, an alternative is to invest in a resistance band. You cant hen slip this over your heel and attach the other end to something like a door handle. Now, while sitting down, attempt to curl the hamstring down to the floor against the pull of that band.
10. Touch Toes
Finally, simply bending over and trying to touch your toes from a standing position is another great exercise and perfect way to stretch the hamstrings and the glutes. Do not try to ‘bob’ or force your way into the movement. Instead just push slowly and gently down, not going further than you can without pain. You can then take a break and try again and you should find you reach a little further each time you repeat this!
The key is to be consistent and persistent and not to force any pain!