9 Best Moves to End Knee Pain

Updated: Mar. 11, 2021

Here’s a mix of stretches that can save your knees: four that you can do anywhere, and five that use a foam roller. The combo will have your knees feeling better in no time.

Courtesy Theo Kousouli, Kousouli Health & Wellness Center

No equipment: Calf stretch

First off, in your efforts to end your knee pain, it’s important to remember to never force a stretch, to go slow. “To help remove pressure in the back of your knee, stand in front of a wall with your hands pushed against the wall,” says Theodoros Kousouli, DC, CHt, founder of the Kousouli Method. “Place one leg straight back with the heel and foot firmly planted on the floor. For advanced stretching, lean forward and down while bending your front knee. You will feel the back of your leg stretch and loosen up. Switch legs and repeat till you have done ten reps on each leg, holding five to ten seconds. Learn about exercises that can prevent knee pain when you’re running.

Courtesy Theo Kousouli, Kousouli Health & Wellness Center

No equipment: Hamstring stretch

Start on your back facing the sky, legs straight, heels on the floor. Lift your left leg up into the air, keeping it straight. If you can, grab behind your left thigh and gently pull toward your stomach, then switch legs and repeat, Kousouli recommends. Do five reps per side, holding each stretch for five to ten seconds. Read about these proven treatments for knee pain.

Courtesy Theo Kousouli, Kousouli Health & Wellness Center

No equipment: Quad stretch

“This move helps with mystery pains under the kneecap,” says Kousouli. Lie on your side with your bottom leg straight; bend your top leg back so your foot comes toward your buttocks. You should feel the stretch in the front of your thigh. Switch sides and repeat. Do ten reps on each side, holding each stretch for five to ten seconds. Here are some more quad stretches you can try.

Courtesy Theo Kousouli, Kousouli Health & Wellness Center

No equipment: Side lunge stretch

This move to fight knee pain helps increase hip and knee stability while working the muscles on the insides of your thighs, the adductors. Standing with your feet spread wide, sink to one side in a lunge while keeping the opposite leg straight, says Kousouli. “The inside part of your straight leg’s thigh should be facing down towards the floor. Keep your foot flat on the floor the best you can.” You’ll feel the stretch in your inner thigh. Switch and repeat with the other leg; do a total of ten reps with each leg, holding each stretch for five to ten seconds.

Courtesy Rob Sulaver

Foam rolling: Quads

Foam rolling is another great way to fight knee pain. “Often, knee pain can be caused by excess tension in the tissue surrounding the knee, which you can address with a combination of soft-tissue work, such as foam rolling, and mobility work—stretching,” says Rob Sulaver, founding trainer at Rumble Boxing and CEO of Bandana Training. He’s quick to note, however, that like stretches, foam rolling needs to be done regularly in order to be effective—though you will notice results right away. Start off by doing each move for 30 to 60 seconds. Check out these 7 great foam roller exercises your body will thank you for.

The move: “Lying on your belly, place the foam roller just above your knee,” says Sulaver. “Roll the entire quad muscle from the top of the knee to the base of the hip. If you find areas of excess tension, spend some extra time rolling over those trigger points.” Learn about the best exercises for your thighs.

Courtesy Rob Sulaver

Foam rolling: Adductors

“Lying on your belly with your knee slightly out to the side, roll the inside of your thigh from the groin to just above the knee,” says Sulaver. Read about these quick ways to get rid of pain on the inside of the knee.

Courtesy Rob Sulaver

Foam rolling: IT band

The IT band is the flat outer side of your thigh, and when it’s tight it can really pull on your knee. “Lying on your side propped up on one hand, roll your IT band from just above to knee right up through your hip,” says Sulaver. You can supplement your foam rolling with these other IT band stretches too.

Courtesy Rob Sulaver

Foam rolling: Glutes

“Crossing your left foot over your knee, place the foam roller directly under your left butt cheek. Seek out trigger points in your glutes. Pro tip: Usually they’re pretty high and towards the outside of the glute, close to your lower back,” says Sulaver.

Courtesy Rob Sulaver

Foam rolling: Calf

“Sitting on your rear, the foam roller goes directly under your calves. You can cross one foot on top of the other and roll out one calf at a time for additional pressure,” says Sulaver. Check out the different types of leg pain—and when to take them seriously.