Introduction to Knee Pain

Pain in and around your knee is called knee pain. Knee pain results from a sprain, an injury in the knee joint (the areas in the knee where 2 or more bones meet), or from constant stress on the knee joints. It can be the main symptom of arthritis (the swelling and tenderness of one or more of your joints) of the knee. 

It can also be associated with age-related factors as well. Most often, an injury or strain in your hamstring can also be the cause of severe knee pain. 

Your Hamstring Muscles and Knee Pain

A hamstring is any one of the three posteriors (back) thigh muscles in between your hip and the knee. The function of your hamstring is to cross and act upon two joints – the hip and the knee, to facilitate bending of your knee and straightening of your hips. Your hamstrings are quite susceptible to injury, all the more if you are an athlete or play sports regularly.

Most hamstring sprain or injuries also called a “pulled hamstring”, is an injury to one or more of the muscles at the back of the thigh. Hamstring injuries usually respond well to simple, nonsurgical treatments.

It is also important to understand that the hamstring tendons (the fibrous connective tissue that connects muscle to bone) connects the hamstring muscles to your pelvis, knee, and shin bones. The pelvis is the lower part of the torso, located between your abdomen and the legs. The shin bones, also called tibia and fibula, are the two long bones in your lower leg. 

A leading cause of knee pain and instability is the weakness of the hamstrings. As the hamstrings help the knee bend, an injury to either the tendons or the muscles can cause knee pain and difficulty walking or bending your knee. Exercising or working out your hamstring muscles regularly can help reduce hamstring injuries and thus, alleviate knee pain.

4 Key Hamstring Workouts to Relieve Knee Pain

1. Hamstring Foam Roll

Often weak and overworked, the hamstrings are prone to tightness and injury. For many people, the quads or quadriceps femoris muscles (large fleshy muscle groups covering the front and sides of your thigh) are stronger than the hamstrings, and this leads to muscle imbalances and injuries. Use the foam roller to strengthen your hamstrings and help prevent injury.

Foam rollers, also known as exercise rollers or massage rollers help enhance your movements, relax your muscles, even ease back and knee pain.

To do the hamstring foam roll, sit with both legs straight out in front of you. Place the foam roller under your upper legs and your arms on the ground behind you to prop your upper body up off the floor.

Roll up and down the upper legs between the hips and knees. If you feel a spot that’s tender or tight, spend more time working in that particular area. Perform the roll for about 15 to 30 seconds, switch sides, and repeat again.

You can do foam rolling of your hamstring every day for injury prevention, increasing blood flow, and relaxing tight muscles. If your knee pain is a result of tight and sore leg muscles, you may benefit from doing this exercise. 

2. Hamstring Front Leg Swing

Dynamic (active) movements allow the use of controlled momentum to exaggerate your range of motion, thereby creating more elasticity (the ability to stretch a muscle to reach its full range of movement) in your muscles. The hamstring front leg stretch warms up the hamstring muscle and is excellent for activities that require kicking or fast leg movements.

Support your body with your left foot planted and left hand on a wall or doorway. In a continuous flow, bend your right leg behind you and kick it forward until it’s fully extended. Bend the leg back to the start position. Start with a range of motion well within your comfort zone and gradually increase the speed and height of the kick. Repeat this movement for one set of 8 to 12 reps (repetitions) on each leg.

This stretch is great for reducing pain in your knee and the hip area.

3. Walking Hamstring Stretch

The walking hamstring stretch warms up your hamstrings for any activity that involves walking, running, bending, or sitting, to name only a few.

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and arms at your sides. Keep your core engaged and posture aligned throughout the movement. Your core is engaged when all 4 sections of abdominal muscle are braced and tightened together. 

Fully extend your right arm and left leg in front of your body. Keep your leg as straight as possible and your toe pointed toward the ceiling. The movement should be fairly slow and controlled.

Return your right arm to your side and your left leg to the floor as you move forward. Switch sides by extending your left arm and right leg in front of your body to complete the stretch on the opposite side. Continue the sequence for 8 to 10 reps for each leg.

4. Lateral Lunge

Most of your lower body locomotive efforts occur in the forward direction during your daily activities. This leads to an underuse of the inner and outer leg muscles, causing tightness and weakness in your upper leg. The lateral lunge (side-to-side lunge) stretch improves the mobility of these muscles that play an important role in hip strength and balance.

Start by standing with your feet positioned flat on the floor, wider than shoulder-width apart, and your arms relaxed at your sides.

Extend your arms in front of your body as you lift your left leg and take a lateral step 2 to 3 feet to the left. Keep your right leg straight as you press your hips back. Feel the stretch along your upper thighs. Return to the starting position. Repeat the lunge on the right side and complete 8 to 12 reps on each leg.

The hamstrings play a key role in stabilizing your knee joint, as well as maintaining hip and torso positioning. If you wish to practice hamstring stretches and exercise, make sure to understand and learn the right technique from a trained professional. It is advisable not to carry out hamstring workouts without consulting your physiotherapist. 

Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.