You rely on your knees to support your movements during a workout. When you experience pain after exercising, you may be concerned that an underlying condition exists. Understanding why you experience knee pain after you exercise can be a matter of evaluating the types of exercises you are performing and the location of your pain. Learning when you can continue exercising with knee pain -- and when you cannot -- is important to your continued good health.
If you experience knee pain after exercising, take immediate steps to reduce inflammation. This includes icing your knee within 10 to 20 minutes after your workout. You also may wish to take an anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen. Evaluate your footwear as well: lack of support, particularly arch support, often contributes to knee pain. Your physician or a shoe specialist can evaluate your shoes to ensure they are in good enough shape to continue exercising. If your knees continue to swell or the pain gets worse instead of better, you may need to take a few days from exercising and seek medical attention.
Your knees are the major shock absorbers of your body, absorbing the impact each time you take a step. If you participate in high-impact activities like running, volleyball or basketball, you are at increased risk for experiencing knee pain after exercising. If you experience pain in both knees after high-impact exercise, this may be a sign you need to alternate high- and low-impact activities. These include activities like exercising on an elliptical machine or swimming, which puts less strain on your knees. Incorporating these activities into your workout routine may help to take the pressure off your knees.
If a physician has evaluated your knee and determined you have not experienced a serious injury, you may wish to engage in some knee-strengthening exercises to reduce pain and restore stability to your knee. Examples of exercises include sitting with your legs extended and slowly lifting your leg about 6 to 8 inches off the ground. Repeat five to 10 times on each leg. From a seated position with your legs extended, you also can cross one leg over the other to stretch the outer portion of the knee. Hold for five seconds, then release the stretch and repeat on the opposite side. Your physician also may recommend alternate stretches to relieve tension in your knee.
There are a number of bones, tendons and muscles related to the knee, providing ample opportunity for injury. You may experience conditions like runner’s knee, which causes pain behind the kneecap, and iliotibial band syndrome, which causes pain outside the knee. Both injury and overuse can cause you to experience knee pain. If your knee pain does not subside with rest, see your physician, who can evaluate your knee for potential injury. Knee pain does not always mean surgery -- your physician can recommend several conservative approaches to treat pain.