» Getahead » Knees hurt? Back hurts? Try these exercises. Now!

Knees hurt? Back hurts? Try these exercises. Now!

By Brinda Sapat
Last updated on: June 22, 2015 18:39 IST
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Don't let a knee or back pain keep you from getting fit.

Brinda Sapat has designed a workout routine to strengthen your joints and control weight gain.

Chronic back and knee pain make it difficult to follow a typical mainstream form ofs exercise, leading to most sufferers quitting their workout programs.

This leads to weight gain, loss of muscle strength and stress in other joints; going into a downward psychological spiral too.

But there is a solution!

This article applies to those suffering either or both; a bad back and knees.

Learn how to reduce stress on the affected area, exercise to strengthen the joint, how to lose weight and how to relax and soothe the knees/back.

This plan is recommended for people who suffer general knee back aches. It is not designed for anyone who suffers a serious medical condition of these joints. Please consult your doctor before following this program.

If any of the exercises cause any discomfort, please stop and refer to your doctor for advice.

Reduce the stress:

  • Do not load the joint.
  • For the back, don't bend forwards beyond 45 degrees without taking support.
  • For knee pain, do not squat. The knees cannot take so much of the body weight.
  • Avoid sitting on the floor.

Wear appropriate footwear

  • Opt for well cushioned shoes that give plenty of support to the foot.
  • This will take away a good amount of strain from the joints.
  • Avoid high heels or uncomfortable footwear at all costs.

Stay mobile

  • Keeping the body moving allows blood circulation at the joint, making it more flexible and preventing unwanted stiffness.
  • Sleep on a firm but comfortable mattress
  • Keep your back and knees protected from extreme cold.

Weight Loss

  • To burn fat you need cardiovascular exercises. Here are two safe options to choose from:


  • No exercise was as beautifully designed for the joints as swimming!
  • It places negligible impact on the joints and strengthens all the muscles that support them.
  • 30 minutes non-stop at moderate to brisk pace, 5-6 days a week and you will see the inches melting.


  • If swimming isn't an option for you, the next safest bet is walking.
  • Two very important factors here are your footwear and the surface you walk on.
  • Shoes must be extremely well cushioned with sufficient support.
  • The surface you walk on must be smooth, even and should not be concrete.
  • A jogging track or a good quality treadmill should do well.
  • Walk at a moderate to brisk pace for 30 minutes non-stop, 5-6 days a week.
  • Whichever cardio exercise of the two you pick, adjust the time and pace as per what your body can manage without causing any discomfort to the affected joint.

Exercise to strengthen the joints:

  • Please follow the exercise technique carefully to avoid aggravating the joints.

For your knees

1. Seated knee-cap lifts

  • Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you and back tall.
  • Place your hands in any comfortable position.
  • Now, flex your feet and "slowly" tighten your thigh muscles as if you are trying to lift your knee caps towards the thighs.
  • Be careful to do this gently without a sudden jerk causing your knees to lock and aggravate the pain.
  • Feel the front of your thigh muscles tighten.
  • Slowly release.
  • Do 2 sets of about 12 -16 repetitions.

2. Seated knee extensions

  • Sit on a chair with your knees at the edge.
  • Raise your feet as high up as you can using control, making sure not to make a sudden jerking movement.
  • Feel the front of your thigh muscles contract.
  • Lower slowly.
  • Do 2 sets 12-16 reps.

3. Standing Leg Raises

  • The hip and thigh support the knee joint and need strengthening to take the strain away from the joint.
  • In standing position, keeping your foot flexed, raise the leg to the side and lower down gently.
  • The movement should be controlled. No swinging with momentum. Do 12 reps.
  • Next, do 12 such raises to the back, focussing on squeezing the butt muscles.
  • After that, do 12 front leg raises by lifting a straight leg to the front, squeezing the muscle in front of the hip.
  • Finally do 12 Cross Body Leg Raises lifting the(straight) leg across the opposite leg.
  • Repeat all four leg raises on the other leg

For your back

Here you will come across exercises that are for the abdominals and hips as well.

These are muscles that support the back and must be strengthened too.

1. Planks

Follow the illustrations for the three plank variations.

  • Ensure that in all three forms, you must keep your body in a straight, diagonal line -- head, hip and feet.
  • Do not allow the back to arch.
  • Arching the back will lead to more pain.
  • If you find the planks difficult, do the same keeping your knees bent for all the three exercises.
  • Plank:

  • The focus here is on tightening the abdominals to hold your body up.
  • Hold for 30 seconds

Reverse Plank:

  • Keep the hip lifted by tightening the back and your butt. Hold for 30 seconds

Side Plank:

  • Feel the underside of your waist contract to hold you up.
  • Repeat this plank on the other side. Hold each side for 20 seconds.

2. Swimming

  • Lie face down on the floor with both your arms extended in front of you.
  • Raise your right arm, upper body and left leg off the floor as you squeeze your back.
  • Lower down and repeat with the left arm and right leg.
  • Keep alternating sides to mimic a smooth and controlled swimming action.
  • Make sure one arm and the opposite leg are on the floor at all times.

3. Crunches

  • Lie on your back with your hands behind your head and elbows out to the side.
  • Bend your knees at 90 degrees and get your feet off the floor.
  • Raise your upper body till your shoulder blades come off the floor while you simultaneously raise your hips up too, bringing your knees towards your chest.
  • Make sure to keep the chin off the chest and use your tummy muscles; not use your arms to pull you up.
  • Do 2 sets of 12-16 reps

4. Oblique crunches

  • Lie in the same start position as above.
  • Keep the legs lifted with knees bent at 90 degrees.
  • Raise the upper body and twist your torso bringing your right shoulder towards your left knee. Lower down.
  • For the next rep, twist the opposite side.
  • Keep alternating with every rep.
  • Do a total of 12 reps and repeat for another set.

Relax and Soothe

For your back:

  • Lie face down and come up on your elbows.
  • Suck your tummy in and pull your torso forwards and upwards till your belly button comes off the floor.
  • Leave your pelvis pressing down into the floor.
  • This will stretch out your tummy muscles that support the back muscles.
  • Lie face up on a mat and pull your knees into the chest.
  • Feel a stretch in your back and gently rock your body side to side to give it a mild massage.
  • Next get the soles of the feet together and hold onto them with your hand. Push the knees out to the side.
  • This will help release the back muscles.
  • Use a tennis ball under the sore spots of your back and press down on it to help massage the muscle and feel good.
  • Lift the same side knee up for added pressure. Move around to massage around the spot.
  • Use a hot or cold pack depending what makes your muscles feel better.

For your knees:

  • Sit with your feet extended straight out in front of you.
  • Bend over to try to reach for your toes.
  • Keep your back flat.
  • Focus on the stretch at the back of the thighs.
  • Hold this stretch for 20 seconds, without bouncing or releasing.
  • Relax the knees by lying on the bed and sliding a pillow under the knees so that they are slightly bent.
  • Place a hot or cold pack (whichever works better for you) over and under it.

Do a tennis ball-massage:

  • Recline on your affected side and place the tennis ball at various spots under the side of your leg all the length from hip to calf.
  • This helps loosen the stiff muscles that will help relax the knee.
  • You can use the ball to massage along the front and back of the leg too, if it makes your knee feel good.

> More health features here

Lead photograph (used for representational purposes only): Zuruimei/Creative Commons

Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh/

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Brinda Sapat